Why did the Human Rights privacy decision against Slater take so long?

In short, lack of resources, in particular there only being one Chairperson who could do most of the work. The findings \seem simple and obvious.

One of the notable aspects of the Human Rights Review Tribunal decision against Cameron Slater was how long it took for the decision to be published.

This shows that the hearings began in October 2014, and the decision wasn’t published until about four and a half years. Matthew Blomfield had good reason to claim that justice delayed is justice denied, especially as since the hearings Slater has clocked up a lot of other legal and court costs, and declared himself bankrupt last month. The $70,000 awarded by the tribunal will be difficult to get.

The decision tries to explain the reason for this long delay.

[14] The reasons for the long delay in publishing this decision are explained in Wall v Fairfax New Zealand Ltd (Delay) [2017] NZHRRT 8. It was not until enactment of the Tribunals Powers and Procedures Legislation Act 2018 that s 99AA of the Human Rights Act was on 14 November 2018 inserted to allow the Governor-General to appoint one or more Deputy Chairpersons of the Tribunal. As at the date of publication of this decision no such appointments had been made.

[15] The delay by the Tribunal is regretted and an apology is made to the parties.

It refers to Wall v Fairfax New Zealand Ltd (Delay) [2017] NZHRRT 8 which explains more.

[2] There are two reasons for the delay. First, an unprecedented increase in the Tribunal’s workload and second, the fact that the Human Rights Act 1993 does not allow the appointment of a deputy chair to assist the Chairperson to keep pace with the large inflow of new cases.

[3] The volume of new cases filed with the Tribunal over the past two calendar years has increased substantially…

[4] As a consequence of this influx there were 120 active files as at 28 February 2017, each requiring hands-on management by the Chairperson…

[5] Apart from the sharp numerical increase in the number of files requiring management(and the allocation of a hearing date), the workload of the Tribunal (particularly that of the Chairperson) has been added to by two further factors. First, the growing complexity of the issues litigated…On average, the present norm is for hearings to take between three and five days.

Second, the steep increase in the number of cases in which one or more of the parties is self-represented…Cases involving self-represented litigants are more difficult to manage and therefore more time-consuming.

Slater and his assistant in this case Dermot Nottingham both have records of time wasting, deliberate delays, and dumping huge amounts of irrelevant and inadmissible material into proceedings. An additional problem is that various courts have allowed these practices to continue for years of litigation.

Structure of the Human Rights Act unhelpful

[6] Part 4 of the Human Rights Act is structured in such a way that almost every action on every file must be undertaken by the Chairperson. For example, all case management directions must be given by the Chairperson (see the Human Rights Review Tribunal Regulations 2002, regs 16 to 18) and the Chairperson must preside at all sittings of the Tribunal (s 104(4)). Interim order applications are also determined by the Chair (s 95). All decisions of the Tribunal are written by the Chairperson.

[7] The Chairperson is presently the only member of the Tribunal. The Panel maintained by the Minister of Justice under s 101 is a separate statutory entity which is drawn on by both the Chairperson and by the High Court.  Members of the Panel are only ever members of a “tribunal” when appointed by the Chairperson for the purposes of a particular hearing (s 98).

The anomaly

[8] Section 102(1) of the HRA does not allow the appointment of a Deputy Chair to share the workload…

[9] An urgent amendment to this section is necessary. It is an amendment of the most minor kind. All that is required is for the amended s 102 to provide:

(1) The Governor-General, on the recommendation of the Minister, may appoint a deputy chair or chairs of the Tribunal.

[10] Such amendment will allow the Tribunal, if it is adequately resourced, to hear and determine cases in a timely and efficient manner. Without legislative intervention the severe difficulties presently faced by the Tribunal will compound.

That Minute was delivered on 10 March 2017.

The Slater decision states that on on 14 November 2018  the “Tribunals Powers and Procedures Legislation Act 2018 that s 99AA of the Human Rights Act was inserted to allow the Governor-General to appoint one or more Deputy Chairpersons of the Tribunal.”

While no Deputy Chairpersons have been appointed the recent change would have been too late for speeding up the Slater decision.

The hope must be that cases currently before the Human Rights Review Tribunal, and future cases, will progress much faster.

 

 

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10 Comments

  1. unitedtribes2

     /  14th March 2019

    Its also interesting how little or no comment there has been from Whale Oil commenters on their leaders and blogs’ downfall. Almost as if they are forbidden to comment. Without his audience (me included at the time) Slater would never have been able to be a hired gun. It should be appropriate now for those followers to now acknowledge that.

    Reply
    • That can’t be so, they keep claiming to be champions of free speech.

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  14th March 2019

      If Slater’s audience hadn’t been stupidly prevented from criticising intelligently by the likes of Belt he might have been dissuaded from getting himself into so much trouble.

      Reply
  2. Blazer

     /  14th March 2019

    No lack of resources’ in turning Hager over…though.

    Reply
  3. Chuck Bird

     /  14th March 2019

    I have had the same problem. Justice delayed is justice denied. I won my case against a crooked lawyer. But he went bankrupt. My case was straight forward and if settled when it should have been I could have got some money.

    Reply

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