"Contempt Of Authority"? Really? By Karen Davis

Updated: May 14, 2020

In December we reported on a case where a former BOP DHB employee who has a personal grievance claim before the Employment Court was alleged to be in contempt for interviewing with Radio NZ.

Contempt of Court - that's serious, right?

Actually, the DHB has alleged that former cardiac physiologist Ana Shaw, along with her employment advocate Allan Halse, are in contempt of the Employment Relations Authority, part of MBIE, for their Radio NZ interview and Facebook postings respectively. What led to those publications was a number of alleged stalking incidents at Ms Shaw's new workplace in Tauranga. Once publicised, the stalking stopped.

It started off simply enough: a former employee had brought two personal grievance claims in the Authority. The ERA made a determination not long after the stalking was reported; Ms Shaw was unsuccessful with her claim. She then challenged that determination to the Employment Court. We don't yet know the date the Employment Court challenge on the Personal Grievances will be heard but it could be some months off.

There is a publicised Employment Court judgement which deals with a minor issue. At one stage there were two sets of submissions to be filed, and one set was filed about a week late due to a misunderstanding. It's not of great interest in itself but it does show that in addition to two Personal Grievance claims, there are separate proceedings against the same employee and her advocate.

We don't know if the stalking and subsequent publication of it caused Ms Shaw to lose in the ERA, or whether the Employment Court has the jurisdiction to hear a charge of Contempt of Authority.

But we now know that there will be a hearing at the Employment Court in Auckland on Monday 29 June on "penalties, orders that the defendants be held in contempt of the Authority, an urgent takedown order in relation to certain social media posts, and costs on an indemnity basis" (Paragraph 3). Ms Shaw and Mr Halse have lawyered up.

Standing back and looking at the big picture, what is going on here? The stalking photos have been on the Leighton Associates website for five months. A recording of the interview is still on the Radio NZ website . What is the DHB so desperate to hide, that they are continuing to pursue contempt charges against a former employee and whistleblower who had taken a Personal Grievance claim?

If aiding and abetting a breach of a direction by an ERA Member is a thing, and Mr Halse has been accused of it, then the stalker is equally likely to find himself in the dock too, as his provocation of Ms Shaw appears to have caused that "breach".

We may get a better idea after the 29 June hearing, and this should be very interesting.

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