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ACC Compensation for Sex Abuse - Index


2000 Index 


The Dominion
December 8 2000

ACC sex-abuse payments to be vetted, says Cullen
by David McLoughlin


TheE Government hopes to prevent another blowout in ACC sex-abuse payments by more careful medical scrutiny of claims when lump-sum payments are restored under a bill before Parliament.


When lump sums for victims of rape and sexual abuse were last available, the number of claims rose from 221 in 1988 to 13,000 in 1993, when such payments were abolished because of the rapidly rising cost.


Critics said many claims were fraudulent or driven by therapists "planting" false memories. Claimants were almost always automatically paid $10,000 on application, with no checks to see if the abuse happened and if anyone had been prosecuted.


Criminal prosecutions for all categories of sex crimes have averaged about 700 a year in the past 13 years but ACC claims related to sex abuse (including counselling since 1993) have averaged 6000 a year. ACC Minister Michael Cullen introduced his Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation Bill to Parliament last week. It reintroduces lump payments of up to $100,000 for accident victims who suffer lasting physical impairment.


It also provides for lump sums for "mental injury caused by certain criminal acts", defined as sex crimes including rape and sexual abuse. Claims will be paid whether or not there has been a complaint to police or a prosecution.


Aucklander Gordon Waugh, a long-time campaigner against false allegations of sexual abuse, said the bill's open-ended wording would lead to further false claims and a budget blowout.


ACC continued to pay therapists to counsel abuse victims after lump sums were cut off, he said. There were 10,800 such new cases in 1994, falling slowly to 4400 in the year to June 30. All new claimants from the date the bill is passed, expected to be late next year, will be able to claim lump sums as well as having their counselling paid for.


Dr Cullen said yesterday that the Government recognised the risk of spurious claims, but planned tight constraints. Claimants would be assessed for lump sums only after providing a certificate from a medical practitioner qualified to assess mental injury.


Asked why a complaint to police or a criminal conviction was not needed, Dr Cullen said that could disqualify many legitimate victims.


The bill provides payments for mental injury caused by sexual trauma, but not for people traumatised by witnessing or surviving a crash without physical injuries. Dr Cullen said it was decided the cost would be prohibitive.