The High Court has ruled in court case Winston Peters brought against the State Services Commissioner, the MSD Chief Executive and two former National Ministers and he has failed on every ground.
This is no surprise. The lawsuit was founded on speculation, not facts, and the hearings showed up how farcical it was.
Not so farcical is this would have cost taxpayers close to one million dollars to defend. The Government must treat Peters no different to any other failed litigant and seek full costs against him. Taxpayers should not have to fund the absurdity of a Deputy Prime Minister suing the most senior public servant in Government.
Some useful extracts from the court ruling:
A significant amount of evidence during the hearing related to Mr Peters’
completion of the application form for NZS. The payment irregularity arose because Mr Peters’ application was processed and payments of NZS were made to him on the basis he was single at the time he applied for NZS. That was an error as, at the time, he had a partner, Ms Trotman. Mr Peters considered the MSD and its form were responsible for the error. The MSD and the Crown defendants considered Mr Peters was responsible for it. I have come to the view that the error arose through a
combination of circumstances. The ambiguous nature of the form, the MSD officer who processed Mr Peters’ application and Mr Peters himself all bear some responsibility for the error which led to the payment irregularity.
So the court has ruled that Peters is partially responsible for the over-payment.
Mr Peters must also bear some responsibility for the resultant ambiguity in the form as completed and the consequent issues that arose. To the left-hand side of question 26 is the definition of partner. If Mr Peters had read that definition, it would have been clear, given that Ms Trotman was his partner, that he should have completed the primary question in question 26 and answered it by ticking “Yes”.
So Peters was not dishonest, he just couldn’t competently read and complete a form!
On 18 March 2014, the MSD sent a standard letter to Mr Peters which included a request that asked him to check the following details:
Relationship Status: You are single.
Clear as day.
If Mr Peters had paid more attention to the letter, he would have realised there was an issue with the MSD’s records regarding his initial application.
Can’t complete a form and doesn’t read his mail!
In closing, Mr Henry accepted that the Ministers’ evidence they did not leak the information was unchallenged. He conceded on behalf of Mr Peters that, in relation to all causes of action insofar as they related to Ms Bennett and Ms Tolley, the claim for damages could not be pursued, although a declaration was still sought.
So they took a lawsuit seeking $2.25 million in damages, without any evidence at all to back his claims.
With respect to Mr Soper, his evidence that, in his opinion, the information was deliberately leaked as an attempt by Mr Peters’ political opponents to damage his credibility and to do what the Prime Minister wanted, which was “to cut out the middleman”, namely NZ First, is speculative. It is not the opinion of an expert based on established fact.
Opinion based on speculation is not the same as facts.
So once again the Government must seek full costs against Peters. There is no way taxpayers should foot the bill for his legal stupidity.