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ACC loses case alleging disabled man faking

Sunday 16 Dec 2012 4:33 p.m.

A judge has dismissed an ACC fraud case that included video of a man walking around while on a disability allowance.

Wellington man Wiremu Brightwell says ACC should now reinstate his benefit, after he was cleared. But ACC won't back down.

ACC probably thought its images of Mr Brightwell would prove their case. They show him walking around a Wairarapa supermarket while being paid a wheelchair disability allowance. But it was ACC's case that stumbled.

“I can walk on a good day,” says Mr Brightwell. “They only showed my good days. They [have] never seen the bad ones.”

Mr Brightwell was injured in a workplace accident nearly 20 years ago. He says he suffers chronic pain and was on a disability allowance until ACC alleged he and his wife Kitty were receiving payments when he could actually walk.

ACC said they dishonestly received 21 weekly payments, totalling tens of thousands of dollars, and a modified disability van worth $66,000 that they later sold.

“With the van, it’s already been substantiated that he had every right to do what he wanted with that,” says Ms Brightwell.

The judge raised concerns over key evidence from ACC. He rejected statements from two doctors, as they were wrongly obtained, and gave little weight to the supermarket images, saying they weren't clear enough. ACC also presented CCTV from a service station that was ruled inadmissible.

Judge Hastings dismissed the case, saying Mr Brightwell's condition still meant he could walk at times, so he and his wife weren't committing fraud. He allowed 3 News access to the CCTV footage, saying "ACC failed to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the clips showed malingering, as distinct from selected activity on good days that was within a range of symptomatology supported by other evidence".

ACC is now facing another legal battle with the Brightwells. The couple is taking court action to try and force ACC to reinstate their disability payments.

3 News

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