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Wallace wants Govt help with huge legal bill

9 March 2004

The mother of fatally shot Waitara man Steven Wallace is calling for the Government to pay for the private prosecution the family brought against the police officer who shot him.

Raewyn Wallace told The Daily News that, if the Government would pay for an investigation into historical rape allegations against police officers, then they should also foot the bill of the prosecution against Senior Constable Keith Abbott.

Mr Wallace was shot on the main street of Waitara nearly four years ago.

In December 2002, the Wallace's private murder prosecution against Constable Abbott failed after a High Court jury in Wellington cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Mrs Wallace said she mortgaged her home and spent her life savings on legal costs and still faced a hefty bill.

She estimated that cost to be about $200,000, probably more.

Her comments have been prompted by a recent Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) payout she received following a workplace injury dating back to the 1990s.

At the end of last month, Mrs Wallace received just over $50,000 from ACC - money that will go on, but make barely a dent in, her legal bill, she said.

Battling ACC on her behalf has been Auckland-based self-claimed justice crusader Dermot Nottingham.

Mr Nottingham said the ACC money proved she had not received weekly payments she had been entitled to because she couldn't work. Instead she had received the lesser invalids benefit.

Mrs Wallace had worked for more than 20 years as a seamstress and machinist and her injuries were a result of occupational overuse.

The lump-sum had been taxed at a higher rate - 35.2%, he said.

"The normal tax rate would have been 19%. So at the end of this she paid for the private prosecution, had to mortgage her house, then paid a huge amount of tax," said Mr Nottingham in New Plymouth yesterday.

Mr Nottingham said it was a double standard that Mrs Wallace had to pay to bring the prosecution case against Constable Abbott when the Government was now holding an inquiry into alleged sexual misconduct by the police.

"I, as does Raewyn, fully support the inquiry. But surely, if the Government can come up with three million dollars for this, then the Crown should have picked up her tab.

"Why should a beneficiary have to pay for the justice system?"

Prime Minister Helen Clark has appointed Dame Margaret Bazley and High Court judge Justice Bruce Robertson as commissioners for the inquiry into police conduct.

Their inquiries will focus on police process and culture following an alleged rape of Rotorua woman Louise Nicholas.

Ms Nicholas said she was pack-raped by three men, Assistant Commissioner Clint Rickards and former officers Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum, in 1986.

All three deny the allegation.

Mr Nottingham said they would be contacting Miss Clark about Mrs Wallace's case.

Jayne Hulbert,
The Daily News © Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2004

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