ACC adviser silent on links to sex abusers

17:00, Aug 28 2010

CONCERNS ARE being raised over changes at ACC that denied sex crime victims access to treatment.

Critics allege the changes were partly based on advice from an academic who is married to a sex offender.

Auckland University medical and health sciences faculty professor Felicity Goodyear-Smith was one of the authors of a 2005 paper on sexual abuse counselling funded by ACC.

She is the daughter-in-law of Centrepoint community leader and convicted paedophile Bert Potter. His son, her husband John, was jailed in 1993 on historic charges of indecent assault at Centrepoint.

Her paper recommended a diagnosis of mental injury, as defined by the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, be made at the outset of treatment. Last year ACC accepted that criteria for those seeking support, denying hundreds of victims counselling and outraging counsellors, who said labelling sex crime victims mentally ill was stigmatising and unethical.

New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists' sensitive claims spokesman Kyle MacDonald said there were "obvious parallels" between the new rules and the research, and his group was opposed to Goodyear-Smith's involvement in ACC-commissioned sexual abuse research.

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The mental injury diagnosis was not included in a 2008 Massey University guideline, a widely accepted document outlining best practice in the sexual abuse field, which ACC says guided its policy.

Last year's changes saw a drop in sexual abuse claims, prompting ACC Minister Nick Smith to set up a review panel that reports next month, but ACC has already reinstated 16 hours of counselling for victims.

Goodyear-Smith, who lived for years on Centrepoint land, working as the community's GP, is an outspoken critic of sexual abuse counselling, saying it can be as damaging as sexual abuse itself, and once telling a newspaper the "ACC scam's one of the biggest there is".

She is the founder of a support group for men accused of sex crimes, and has acted for them in the courts and the media over the past 16 years.

Counsellor Barri Leslie – herself a former Centrepoint member – alleges Goodyear-Smith provides "an academic veneer" for attitudes similar to Bert Potter's.

"It's outrageous she's been commissioned by ACC in the area of sexual abuse counselling," she said.

A special investigation in today's Focus outlines similarities between Bert Potter's and Goodyear-Smith's positions, including that not all sexual activity between adults and children is damaging.

ACC told the Star-Times last year it had not commissioned research from Goodyear-Smith but now admits it did. Smith's spokesman distanced him from the research, saying it occurred three years before he became minister, and that he had no information on the matter. "The minister does have concerns about the pathway and that is why he established the independent clinical review panel."

Goodyear-Smith would not be interviewed for the story.

Sunday Star Times