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Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

New hope for RSA payout

Compo for survivor of infamous killing spree inspires widower to try again.

Tai Hobson is suing the Government over the death of his wife, Mary Hobson. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Tai Hobson is suing the Government over the death of his wife, Mary Hobson. Photo / Paul Estcourt

The Corrections Department will face a fresh legal challenge over its handling of RSA killer William Bell, with the widower of one his victims relaunching a claim for compensation.

Tai Hobson, whose wife, Mary, was one of three people murdered at the Mt Wellington-Panmure Returned and Services Association in December 2001, plans to fight for an ex gratia payment from the Government.

Last night, the department made a settlement with Susan Couch, who was beaten to within an inch of her life by Bell and left partially paralysed. It will pay $300,000.

Ms Couch said that while there was no formal apology, she would take it. She had been seeking $500,000.

Mr Hobson, 78, said he was "very happy" that Ms Couch had finally had some recognition from the department. He also felt that the deal opened the door for him to be compensated.

"Now that she got what she went for, I think I'll be the next in line, " he told the Herald.

"They probably want me to go away. But I'm not going to."

He said he had decided to "move on" from his wife's death at the 10th anniversary last December of the slayings.

But he still felt he was owed some form of reparation for his loss.

Bell was working at the RSA while on parole for aggravated robbery, despite a record of alcoholism and severe violence. He struck Mrs Hobson with a shotgun while she was kneeling and praying, bashing her so hard that the ring on the hand she protected herself with was flattened.

A previous claim for compensation by Mr Hobson was ruled out by the Court of Appeal in 2007 on the grounds that he was a secondary victim and had not suffered physical harm.

But his lawyers at the time believed that the Government had a moral obligation, if not a legal requirement, to compensate him.

They drafted an ex gratia claim, noting the Court of Appeal judge pointed to serious errors made by Corrections in its handling of Bell.

Their case was backed by a legal opinion from a human rights lawyer.

The claim was shelved while Ms Couch's case was before the courts.

Now that her case has been resolved, Mr Hobson plans to restate his case with the backing ofthe Sensible Sentencing Trust.

Yesterday, Prime Minister John Key acknowledged the "harrowing experience" that Ms Couch had endured, and said she had been tenacious in fighting her legal case.

He said Corrections had reflected on all the information available and he supported the department in its decision to make a settlement.

The department has reportedly spent more than $200,000 on legal costs in defending itself against Ms Couch's claim.

- NZ Herald

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