Pcw v The Attorney-General Hc Wn

JurisdictionNew Zealand
CourtHigh Court
JudgeMallon J
Judgment Date03 December 2010
Neutral Citation[2010] NZHC 959
Docket NumberCIV-2006-485-874
Date03 December 2010

[2010] NZHC 959



The Attorney-General

Ms Cooper with Mr Benton for the plaintiff

Mr Hancock with Ms Schmidt for the defendant

Application for an order specifying what costs would have been made against the plaintiff if his liability to pay costs had not been affected by s40 Legal Services Act 2000 “LSA” (liability of aided persons for costs). Unsuccessful claim for substantial damages and other orders arising out of alleged sexual and physical abuse of plaintiff when he was in the navy. Plaintiff was in receipt of legal aid. Defendant did not seek an order for costs against plaintiff — whether it was appropriate for the Court to exercise its discretion to make an order under s40(4) LSA (order may be made specifying what order for costs would have been made).

At issue was whether it was appropriate for the Court to exercise its discretion to make an order under s40(4) LSA.

Held: The purpose of making an order under s40(4) LSA was to enable a party to make an application under s41 LSA (costs of successful opponent of aided person) if the party wished to. A s41 application enabled a person prejudiced by the limits on costs against legally aided persons to, essentially, seek relief from the Legal Services Agency which in turn could seek to recover money from the legally aided person. The order in and of itself did not determine anything of consequence as against P or the Legal Services Agency and as such, the conduct of the Legal Services Agency was not relevant as to whether or not an order should be made. The purpose of s40(4) LSA was not to enable a “stand” to be taken in respect of expensive and unmeritorious litigation since that was the role of the Legal Services Agency along with assessing whether public money should be spent on the proceedings.

Order that an order for costs on a 2B basis would have been ordered against P if s40 LSA had not affected his liability for costs.







The claim in outline


Evidence rulings.


Summary of my decision


ACC bar


The statutory bar


The parties' respective positions.


Mental injury from sexual assault


Mental injury from threats and intimidation


Can a mental injury be divided between covered and uncovered causes anyway?


Does from the claim for mental injury from threats and intimidation

arise indirectly out of personal injury covered under the 2001 Act


Vindicatory damages for tort causes of action.


“Pure” financial loss.


Conclusion on ACC bar


Exemplary damages


The basis on which exemplary damages are claimed


The law


Exemplary damages on a vicarious liability basis here?


Exemplary damages for direct conduct?


a) Navy terminology


b) Official Navy position on homosexuality in the Service


c) Official investigations involving AZ


d) Did the Navy comply with policy with respect to investigations of AZ


e) Apart from official investigations, what else was known about AZ.


f) The alleged sexual assault


g) The plaintiff's evidence of complaint


h) Events leading to AZ's release


i) Navy subjectively reckless in handling of plaintiff's complaint?


j) The alleged threats and intimidation.


Breach of domestic and international human rights instruments


The Bill of Rights (Imp.) 1688








Further issues


Other matters


Sexual assault?


Threats and intimidation?


Mental injury


a) what must be established


b) PTSD as a medically identifiable disorder.


c) Applying the PTSD diagnosis in the court setting.


d) Does the plaintiff have a mental injury?.




Limitation Act


a) The tort claims


b) Reasonable discoverability


c) The “disability” issue


d) The fiduciary duty claim


e) The Human Rights claims


f) Leave?..


Remaining matters




Appendix 1: Evidence rulings


The plaintiff claims damages for an alleged sexual assault on him by AZ in February 1984 on board a Royal New Zealand Navy (the Navy) ship at a time when they were both in the Navy. He also claims damages for alleged threats and intimidation, from other Navy personnel, for reporting the sexual assault. The claim is one of a number of civil claims that have been brought in recent times for alleged abuse (of one kind or another) occurring many years ago suffered by someone who is alleged to be under the responsibility of, or in the care of, the state or private institutions.

The facts in outline

In 1982, when the plaintiff was 17 years old, he joined the Navy as a steward. In 1983 his posting was on the HMNZS Canterbury. He shared sleeping quarters (known in the Navy as “a mess”) with other stewards. One of them was AZ. AZ was a Leading Hand, and so was of a higher rank than the plaintiff. The plaintiff alleges that in February 1984, when the ship was in port at Timaru, AZ sexually assaulted him (fondling his genitals, performing oral sex on him and attempting to sodomise him) when the plaintiff was in his bunk and AZ had returned to the mess from a night out ashore. The plaintiff alleges that the next morning he told another Leading Hand that he had been sexually assaulted. He alleges that this Leading Hand told him, in a threatening and intimidating way, not to take the matter any further and that this was reinforced by other Leading Hands later that day.


In June 1984, when the ship was in Seattle, the plaintiff and others from the same mess made statements about AZ to the Master At Arms (the ship's regulator). The plaintiff's statement referred to AZ having fondled his genitals but did not make the other allegations (oral sex and attempted sodomy). The other statements concerned other sexual or suspected sexual activities by AZ with another Leading Hand which were potentially of a consensual nature, as well as unwanted sexual advances of a minor nature made by AZ on others in the mess. These events occurred at a time when homosexual conduct between males was a criminal offence and was grounds for discharge from the Navy. Immediately following the Master At Arms investigation, AZ was removed from the ship, flown back to New Zealand and discharged from the Navy. The plaintiff alleges that, when others on the ship learned of the complaints that had been made which led to AZ's removal from the ship, he was threatened and intimidated by a number of the Leading Hands on the ship.


The plaintiff says that as a result of these events he became very unhappy with life in the Navy, and as a result he left the Navy in July 1985. He alleges that he was unable to deal with these events and suffered psychological problems for which he ultimately sought help from professional health advisers. He made a claim for, and was granted, accident compensation cover in 2004 for his mental health difficulties and brought this claim in April 2006.

The claim in outline

The plaintiff brings six causes of action.


There are three claims in negligence. The first of the negligence claims alleges, in summary, that the Navy owed the plaintiff a duty of care to ensure that he was placed in appropriate working and living conditions which it breached by failing to take earlier action to remove AZ from the Navy and for failing to take appropriate action in response to his complaint. The second negligence claim is that the Navy has vicarious liability for the sexual assault perpetrated by AZ, subsequent taunts from AZ and threats and intimidation from the Leading Hands. The third negligence claim is that the Navy owed the plaintiff a “non-delegable” duty of care under which it assumed a particular responsibility for the plaintiff's wellbeing.


A fourth claim is for assault and battery on the basis that the Navy is vicariously liable for the sexual assault and the subsequent threats and intimidation.


The fifth cause of action contends that there was a fiduciary relationship under which the Navy was required (amongst other things) to take all reasonable steps to protect the plaintiff from harm. The alleged breach of this duty covers the same ground as the negligence causes of action.


The sixth cause of action contends that the sexual assault and bullying and intimidation was cruel and unusual punishments on him (Article 10 of the Bill of Rights 1688 No 2 (Imp)) and amounted to torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 5 of the UDHR and Article 7 of the ICCPR).


The first to fifth causes of action seek the same relief, namely:

  • a) general damages in the sum of $200,000 for mental injury not covered by the accident compensation legislation;

  • b) exemplary damages in the sum of $85,000;

  • c) special damages for pecuniary loss of...

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