CLAIMS that WorkCover South Australia spent $700,000 on legal fees for a case thrown out of court are wrong according to the firm.
Managing partner at Johnson Winter & Slattery, Peter Slattery, told The New Lawyer that “the figures you see in the media are completely wrong”.
This revelation comes just a day after The New Lawyer and other news sources reported the contrary.
The accusations were raised in parliament by shadow attorney-general, Vickie Chapman, who said: “WorkCover alleges that it has spent more than $700,000 on prosecution costs in the case of Thompson v Duffin. The case has been thrown out by the Full Court of the Supreme Court on the grounds that the prosecution, which was directed by WorkCover and not by the DPP, acted improperly.
"The justices of the Supreme Court identified in their judgment that the case bore all the hallmarks of a win-at-all-costs approach and that WorkCover has no prosecuting guidelines such as those which are almost universally applicable to state prosecuting authorities and which are designed.”
In response to the allegations, South Australian attorney-general, Michael Atkinson, agreed with Chapman, saying: “I share her concerns.”
He added: “The prosecution was done by the private law firm Johnson Winter & Slattery. The judgment is a condemnation of their methods. I think that WorkCover would be well advised to look towards the Crown to do future prosecutions. I think that policy change suggests itself in the judgment.
“When I first came to office as attorney-general, the crown thought that there was a move to privatise their work, to farm it out to private legal firms; in fact, many members of the Crown Solicitor's Office seemed pessimistic about their future. I never entertained for a moment privatising the work of the Crown Solicitor's Office. My view is that the Crown Solicitor's Office does an outstanding job and that any well-run government would rely on in-house government lawyers who take a whole-of-government perspective.”
Slattery said he was unable to comment on the case, as it was an ongoing issue, but was adamant the figures quoted in the media and parliament were incorrect.
“I don’t know where they come from,” he said. “The number they have is wrong.”
Julia Davison, CEO of WorkCover SA, said the decision to employ Johnson Winter & Slattery for the case against Thompson, was based on WorkCovers’ obligation to the workers they represent.
“WorkCover appoints legal representation on a case by case basis, utilising firms that have a prosecutorial background and knowledge of the Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1986,” she said.
"WorkCover is responsible for ensuring compliance with our state's workers rehabilitation and compensation legislation. Part of this responsibility includes taking steps to thoroughly investigate allegations of fraud against the scheme and, where appropriate, initiate court proceedings."
The case started in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on August 13, 2004, and ended on September 4 of this year in front of the South Australian Supreme Court.
The leader of the opposition, Isobel Redmond, did not return The New Lawyers calls in time for publication.