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Tribunal awards partial costs to Police in privacy case Charles Mabbett
31 January 2017


You can act for yourself in the Human Rights Review Tribunal but the way you conduct your case could lead to you having to pay the costs of the other side.

You might recall a case last year in which a woman who worked at a DHB claimed her employer had unfairly disclosed information about her to Police. The case was dismissed by the Human Rights Review Tribunal and we blogged about the Tribunal’s decision here.

Police then sought costs of $4000 from the woman as a contribution to their total legal costs of $28,800. Section 85(2) of the Privacy Act gives the Tribunal discretion to award costs against either the defendant or the plaintiff in a case, or it may decline to award costs against either party.

In its decision, the Tribunal referred to an earlier case in which it dismissed an application from ACC for costs from the plaintiff. The Tribunal said an important element of the broad discretion it is granted in section 85(2) of the Act is not to be fettered. Each case must turn on its own specific facts.

In this case, the Tribunal noted that Police had quite rightly argued that the woman’s conduct in the case had needlessly added to the difficulty and cost of the proceedings. In arriving at this conclusion, it made allowance for the fact that the woman had represented herself.

What the Tribunal said it couldn’t overlook was her needlessly aggressive and confrontational manner during the hearing. It accepted the submission made by Police that the woman’s conduct had added to the cost and difficulty in preparing the case and in conducting the hearing.

But the Tribunal decided that the extent by which the one-and-a-half day hearing was unnecessarily lengthened should not be overstated. While Police sought $4000 in costs from the complainant, the Tribunal said $1500 was sufficient as a contribution to the legal costs incurred on the Police side.

While the Tribunal in this case decided in favour of the defending agency, by dismissing the case and by awarding partial costs, it does from time to time decide not to award costs against an unsuccessful plaintiff. Here’s a post about two previous cases – one where costs were not awarded and one where they were.

As that post notes: A reason behind a decision not to award costs is that people should not be deterred from bringing a case in the human rights jurisdiction, just in case it costs them later.

Image credit: Costs by Geralt - Creative Commons via Pixabay. 





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