Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

$60k awarded to husband of RSA slaying victim

Tai Hobson attempted to sue the Government over the death of his wife, Mary Hobson. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Tai Hobson attempted to sue the Government over the death of his wife, Mary Hobson. Photo / Paul Estcourt

The husband of a woman murdered in the RSA triple killings has received $60,000 compensation from the Corrections Department.

Tai Hobson, 79, whose wife, Mary, was one of three people murdered at the Mt Wellington-Panmure Returned and Services Association in December 2001, has been fighting for an ex gratia payment from the Government, since it was revealed her killer, William Bell was on parole at the time of the attack.

Bell is serving a prison term of 33 years without parole for the murders of Ms Hobson, William Absolum, and Wayne Johnson.

The sole survivor, Susan Couch was almost beaten to death in the attack and has not fully recovered from her injuries.

Last year she received a $300,000 settlement from Corrections.

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 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.

Mr Hobson's lawyer David Garrett told Radio New Zealand $60,000 was not enough and came far too late.

It actually makes my blood boil to think that if Bell, who murdered Tai's wife, was to get roughed up in jail he'd get handed a hundred grand or more, and here is his victim after a 10-year struggle gets 60 grand. It's extremely miserly in my view.''

Corrections Department chief executive Ray Smith told RNZ the money could never compensate for the loss but it was an acknowledgement the department could have done better.

He said the most important part of the process has been speaking with Mr Hobson and his family, and he intends to do the same with the other families.

"It's not about getting out and about with a chequebook. We need to sit down and have a talk and then do the right thing by those people, and I intend to do that.''

The department could have done better, he said.

"We should have sorted this out earlier and we want to acknowledge that and own that.''
The department had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in court action, he said.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust said Mr Hobson had done remarkably well to endure the 10-year struggle for recognition of the Correction Department's "terrible failings''.

"We hope this payment - niggardly and far too late as it is - brings some comfort to his twilight years,'' said spokesman Garth McVicar.

- NZ Herald

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