Cooper Legal is a small, specialist litigation firm that is situated on The Terrace in Wellington.

We specialise in the areas of:

We work with our clients to find an outcome to their legal issues. We aim, throughout the legal process, to protect and promote our clients' rights. We are one of the few New Zealand firms undertaking considerable legal aid work.

We are a group of highly qualified and dedicated professionals, experienced in our areas of work, and always searching for creative and satisfactory solutions to our clients' legal problems.

Rights are our speciality.

 

                                                                        MEDIA RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 7 MAY 2015 

HISTORIC CLAIMS PROCESS IS UNFAIR, FLAWED AND UNDERFUNDED

Cooper Legal, a law firm representing over 600 people abused as children in Social Welfare and CYFS care, is dismayed at Minister Tolley’s unexpected announcement of a “fast track” system to deal with historic abuse claims. The firm’s principal, Sonja Cooper, says the announcement confirms that the Ministry will implement a deeply flawed and underfunded process.

“We have been discussing the Ministry’s proposed process for nearly a year, because we recognise that there needs to be a system to resolve these claims. However, we identified significant issues with the Ministry’s proposal. The Ministry agreed that the process was incomplete and underfunded, but it has chosen to impose it anyway. It will infringe the basic rights of hundreds of people”, says Ms Cooper.

“The process announced by the Minister is deeply flawed”, Ms Cooper says. “It puts victims of abuse into six categories, each with a limited amount of compensation. There is no compensation for social work failures, which is often a major part of the claims. There is no compensation for claims for breaches of the Bill of Rights Act, which covers those people who were in Social Welfare care after 1990. The process will strip victims of their entitlement to be adequately compensated for the most serious breaches of their rights”.

Ms Cooper says that the process will suit some of the firm’s clients, and where that is the case the firm will recommend they ‘opt-in’ to the process. However, the process will be selling most victims short, unless the Ministry addresses the fundamental problems with it.

“The Ministry accepted that the process was underfunded. The ‘fiscal envelope’ available means there is not enough money to address all of the claims in the way the Ministry represents. Each claimant will receive less and less over time as the amount of available funding runs out.”

Ms Cooper says the way the Ministry proposes to investigate claims under the fast-track system means many victims will get little to no compensation at all. “The Ministry relies on a person’s records to indicate whether a person was physically or sexually abused in care, but records rarely record abuse as it was either not discovered, or when it was, it was dealt with quietly and not recorded”, says Ms Cooper. “This allows the Ministry to decline a large number of claims”.

“The Ministry proposes to conduct a cursory examination of its own actions, based on records written by its staff members, to establish its own liability. The likelihood of a fair settlement from that process is very, very low”, says Ms Cooper.

For further information contact Sonja Cooper: (04) 4999 025 or sonja@smcooperlaw.co.nz