ACC refuses cover for terrorised woman

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2013

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A Hamilton woman who was terrorised by a burglar who broke into her house repeatedly in a case a judge likened to a "horror movie script" has been denied ACC cover for post-traumatic stress disorder.

But her Wellington-based lawyer, Jonathon Miller, has confirmed he will be appealing the decision.

In 2004, Richard Steven Newport terrorised the then 61-year-old woman for a year, breaking into the Hamilton home where she lived alone six times.

He rummaged through her lingerie, stole jewellery then posted it back to her, smashed a glass door as she tried to beat him off, set fire to photographs of her and left the pieces burning on her bed, and finally stole a slug gun she slept with under her pillow.

He was jailed for two years in 2005 on six charges of burglary.

Sentencing Judge Neil MacLean said Newport became fixated with the woman subjecting her to "a series of intrusions that sound in many respects like a script from a horror movie".

"You carried out unspeakable, horrid things in her home," he said.

"It is clear this has wrecked her life. Clearly he is a very disturbed man whose thought processes are out of kilter."

The victim was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr Miller told the Waikato Times yesterday the woman - who he would not name - was first applying for cover for her mental injury suffered from the incident.

If approved, it would then open the door to the types of cover she was entitled to - medical, counselling costs, etc - and possibly a lump sum.

She had begun her legal journey in more recent years, he said.

In ACC's recently released decision, Wellington District Court Judge Ongley, said the only relevant sections of law which the victim could apply for compensation were under personal injury and mental injury.

However, to qualify, the victim would have had to have suffered a mental injury by the physical actions of another person.

The only injury suffered by the victim was when she walked on the broken glass which Newport did smashing a glass pane to gain entry to her house.

Judge Ongley found that the victim's mental injury was not a direct consequence of her physical injuries and therefore dismissed her appeal.

Judge Ongley said the legislation required "direct causation" and not due to an "incidental injury" different than that caused by his excessive and frightening behaviour.

Mr Miller said it all came down to the interpretation of the law.

"We just think it's a bit of a harsh interpretation for a compensation statute ... as long as it's part of the matrix of the frightening event you should get cover."

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