PM says Crown Law handling of abuse claims will be reviewed

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she doesn’t agree with Crown Law’s handling of a compensation claim made by a man who was abused as a child in state care.

While she said she wouldn't comment on specific cases, Ms Ardern said Crown Law's handling of such claims would be looked at by the Royal Commission.

"We've asked specifically to make sure that our terms of reference allow people who've had an experience where the Crown may not have acted as a responsible litigant to also share their experience."

In a 2007 court case, the Crown presented evidence from psychiatrists that said repeated sexual abuse of a state ward when he was a child had been “a minor contributor, if at all to [his] current difficulties” as an adult.

Those difficulties included the man’s mental health problems, which the Crown argued were mainly caused by the abuse he suffered prior to entering state care. The judge hearing the case agreed, and decided not to award the man compensation.  

MS Ardern says she doesn't agree with that approach, and the recently announced Royal Commission will address mental anguish as part of its terms of reference.

According to the Ministry of Social Development, 2008 claims for abuse in state care have been made so far. A total of 950 compensation payments have been made, averaging just under $19,000.

Ms Ardern would not comment on whether she thought that was an appropriate amount, but said she has seen cases where the payments were even lower.

"I've seen a huge variance in the range of compensation that people have received, and that's one of the reasons we do want to allow, within the Royal Commission, the ability of people to talk openly, and for them to refer back to us a view on the compensation and claims process as a whole."

"I've seen cases that were lower than that too."

Over 100,000 children are estimated to have been taken into state care in the period between 1950 and 1999.

There is currently no estimate of how many of these children were abused.

Watch Newshub Nation 9:30am Saturday/10am Sunday on TV3, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Newshub Nation is supported by NZ On Air.