“Harassment and intimidation” or “Attendance”? – by Tristam Price

We have written plenty about the three year old proceedings against Tauranga grandmother Ana Shaw and her former employment advocate Allan Halse, brought by the District Health Board that employed Ms Shaw from 2010 to 2015.

Those proceedings fall into the Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) category so that means there’s a “parent” set of proceedings. Two personal grievances for unjustified disadvantage and unjustified dismissal got started way back in 2015.

Judge Smith dismissed Ms Shaw’s claim on 4 February although she has the right to apply for leave to appeal that decision to the Court of Appeal. And whoever loses that one will have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court.

A detailed New Zealand Herald article by Tracy Neal indicates that Ms Shaw will appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Meanwhile, the SLAPP, not mentioned in the Herald article, is still live and before Judge Corkill. The latest interlocutory decision dated 9 December 2021 confirms this and we understand that there will be another interlocutory hearing in March.

Those proceedings are hard to follow and we feel sorry for Judge Corkill having to manage this mess. For context, 30 out or 50 American States have anti-SLAPP legislation and New Zealand doesn’t. This 28 September 2020 interlocutory provides two similar versions of events of 28 November 2018:

[31] ... Ms Shaw said the COO of the DHB had tried to intimidate and harass her at work. Mr Halse said that what Ms Shaw was saying was true, as had been confirmed by both of them at the recent Authority hearing when he said these matters were placed on the record.

[140] CultureSafe posted on its Facebook page a further statement alleging a bullying culture at the DHB. Comments were added by Ms Shaw and CultureSafe staff to an allegation that the COO of the DHB was intimidating and harassing her.

“Intimidation and harassment” is a more elegant expression of what we had already called (allegedly) “stalking” in our 13 December 2019 article, and by the way it was not just the COO but also the business manager who was lucky not to get photographed.

Judge Smith’s decision was released on 4.45pm on the Friday before a long weekend at which massive anti-vaccination mandate protests in Wellington were anticipated, and that distraction resulted in Ms Shaw being unaware of the decision until the night of 9 February. There was one paragraph acknowledging the SLAPP proceedings in the context of them not being part of his decision.

[166] Given the conclusions in this decision it has not been necessary for me to consider post-dismissal events which were referred to by both parties. For Ms Shaw those involved allegations about the attendance at her new workplace of certain DHB employees. For the DHB the concerns were about comments made in social media. Those matters did not provide any assistance in assessing the claims and, for that reason, they have not been referred to in this decision.

See that? Leighton Associates says stalking. Judge Corkill says intimidation and harassment. Judge Smith says attendance.

Mr Halse had to step down as Ms Shaw’s advocate because of the likelihood that he would be called as a witness at the June 2021 hearing, and being both would create a conflict.

He didn’t get called, but if he had been, he probably would have told the court about a panicked call from Ms Shaw during an early stalking – sorry, “attendance” incident at Spotlight where she worked at the time. The “attendee” is now the CEO so apart from some minor inconvenience those incidents don't appear to have done his career any harm.

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