Court holds on to money

Ministry appeals tribunal ruling on damages

WILMA MCCORKINDALE
Last updated 09:48 14/11/2012
Dunedin beneficiary Gordon Holmes
WILMA McCORKINDALE/Fairfax NZ
Dunedin beneficiary Gordon Holmes.

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The Ministry of Social Development must pay thousands in damages awarded to Dunedin beneficiary battler Gordon Holmes but the funds will stay in a court's bank account.

The ruling has been made by Dunedin High Court judge Justice John Fogarty at a pre-appeal case management conference last Wednesday.

The Ministry is appealing orders made by the Human Rights Review Tribunal awarding Holmes $17,000 for Privacy Act breaches by its social welfare agency Work and Income. The tribunal has also ordered a review of the agency's Dunedin branches' Privacy Act processes.

Earlier this month the Ministry's application for a stay of execution on the orders, pending the appeal, was granted.

Holmes last week expressed dissatisfaction he had not received the funds according to the tribunal decision. He was insulted by a statement in the Ministry's appeal documents that he was "likely to have difficulty paying back the damages in the event that the appeal is successful".

He assumed it meant the Ministry thought he was irresponsible, would spend the money and wouldn't be able to come up with it if its appeal was successful.

"That's just their perception. I'm not going to go away and blow $17,000. I'm going to stick it in a bank account and get as much interest as possible on it."

Justice Fogarty accepted Holmes' argument he was missing out on interest on the money. He ruled the Ministry pay the money to be held in a court's bank account where it could accrue interest. Holmes would receive the money, including interest, depending on the outcome of the appeal.

Holmes has been embroiled in a two-year battle with the Ministry over the privacy breaches.

The appeal will be heard in February.

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