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Custody case Dad to sue Legal Aid

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on March 4, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Sunday, March 4, 2007 am31 6:59 AM in CYFSWATCH Media

Sunday Star Times
March 4, 2007


Custody case Dad to sue Legal Aid

By Irene Chapple

A father falsely accused of sexually abusing his daughter during a seven-year battle plans to sue New Zealand’s Legal Aid agency for compensation after it paid for the mother’s fight.
The father has full custody after the claims were finally dismissed as fabrication two years ago.
The mother, who the Family Court said was mentally unwell, was last year banned from seeing the 12-year-old after she continued making allegations.
Now, financially and emotionally crippled after fighting since 1999 to clear his name, the father wants to be compensated.
He cannot be identified for legal reasons, but told the Sunday Star Times the case “simply would not have gone this far if the lawyers were not on the gravy train from Legal Aid. They should never have funded it knowing there was no prospect of success. It is outrageous what they did”.
The 2005 judgement from principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier called the father’s fight one of the most “singular examples of commitment I have ever seen”.
The court, which is criticized for favouring mothers, in this case provided the father with a powerful judgement in his favour.
Boshier told him “I lament what you have suffered in this case. For years your case has been before the Family Court and today you deserve a clear finding from me that you have not sexually abused [your daughter]”.
He said the father’s role “as a parent and the paternal role in this whole case of your family has been undervalued to an extent that alarms me”. Many fathers would have given up. You have not, and your commitment is to be recognized today”.
The father, a 38-year-old self-employed contractor, said the battle had cost him around $70,000, including $40,000 for his lawyer.
He was not eligible for financial aid, but his former partner received $21,000 from the Legal Services agency.
The stress and travel involved meant his income dropped from $68,000 to about $40,000 and he is still repaying an $18,000 bill to his lawyer.
The man, who used to volunteer in the health sector, said “the last thing I needed was this crap flying around about me…I’ll be looking for minimum $40,000 in court costs”
The father said he received no awards for costs.
“I’ve done nothing but pay and pay, I’ve received nothing back”.
Last Friday the father sought legal advice on whether he could sue, and was told he had a very strong case.
The Legal Services Agency was unable to comment on the specific case last week.
But grants manager Robyn Nicholas said aid was given after several factors were taken into account, including whether there was reasonable ground for taking or defending proceedings and the prospects of success.
She said custody cases “can be complex, as by this stage of a relationship the two parties are totally at odds with each other”.
The judgement from Boshier said “this is undoubtedly a very sad case”, and accepted the claims were simply made up as a result of the mother’s mental illness.
He told the mother “I don’t believe what has happened in this case is your fault, but your delusional beliefs have enabled this case to become as protracted as it has and is cruel for [your daughter] and [her father]. It is sad in every respect”

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