ACC refuses to comply with review

ACC has been accused of breaking the law by refusing to comply with a review ordering it to reinstate rehabilitation for a rape complainant.

The woman said she was making good progress under the Accident Compensation Corporation "training for independence" programme – until the corporation cut her from the programme last October.

She later successfully challenged the decision, with reviewer Rex Woodhouse concluding ACC "was wrong in suspending the applicant's ongoing entitlements".

He quashed ACC's decision in July and said the corporation "must now reinstate the applicant's entitlements".

But ACC has told the woman, whose name is suppressed, that she must be assessed by another psychiatrist – at least the fourth different psychiatrist since her claim was accepted by ACC.

This comes as the Government considers whether to lower levies for taxpayers in return for reduced benefits.

The woman's Wellington lawyer, Johanne Greally, said ACC was breaking the law and trying to change the rules.

Until ACC cut the woman from the independence programme in October last year, her only entitlement was that programme, Mrs Greally said.

"The review did not tell ACC to give her another psychiatrist and then look at her entitlements ... ACC are bound by the reviewer's decision. That's the law."

ACC's website says a decision by a review "is binding on all parties involved".

The rape complainant said she felt as if ACC had put her on "a torture wheel ... all I wanted was the people back who were helping me to recover till they just stopped everything".

Under the training programme the woman, who alleged she was raped in 2002 when she was studying law, was helped by a range of therapists, including a psychologist and occupational therapist.

The man accused of rape was acquitted but ACC accepted that the woman had been violated.

Reports from the therapists said the woman was making progress and specialist ACC lawyer John Miller said her resistance to having to see another psychiatrist was not unusual.

"There is almost an element of re-victimisation every time a sexual abuse victim has to go through another assessment ... it can be retraumatising."

It was "an abuse of the legal process" for ACC to refuse to abide by a review decision "and it almost seems like a vindictive response to losing a review".

If ACC wanted another assessment, it should reinstate the entitlements, then ask for a fresh assessment, Mr Miller said.

In the last assessment of the woman two years ago, Nelson psychiatrist Alan Doris said that, at the time of the alleged rape, the woman was a bright, independent law student who was also running a business.

There was no evidence to "indicate the presence of a mental disorder prior to the rape".

The woman now suffers from a range of disorders including eating problems and high levels of anxiety.

But at the review, ACC's lawyer relied on a "provisional" assessment from another psychiatrist whose opinion pre-dated Dr Doris's report by two years.

The review said ACC did not have evidence for its view that the woman's health problems were not a result of the rape.

ACC claims management business manager Sue North said the woman was covered by ACC but, because the review questioned the basis on which ACC made its decision, the corporation wanted another assessment.

"We cancelled the training she was previously getting because we felt it really wasn't helping. It makes no sense to restore the training before this assessment is done ... we believe our approach is reasonable."

Meanwhile, ACC Minister Nick Smith is considering a report suggesting lowering earners' levies, but at the cost of higher medical fees, longer waits and lower compensation sums. It could mean reducing fees for motorists with good safety records.

Labour leader Phil Goff has labelled the suggestion a move towards privatisation by "stealth".

The Dominion Post