A year after a hit-and-run drink-driver nearly killed her, a Queenstown woman is still waiting for him to pay reparation.
Japanese hotel worker Mutsuko Morisue was flung 10 metres when she was hit by a car on the footpath outside the Copthorne Hotel, in Stanley Street, on March 3 last year.
The driver, Brit builder Nicholas Catlin – who ran from the scene but was later found to be nearly three times the legal limit – was sentenced to two years and four months’ prison.
He was also ordered to pay Morisue $2500 immediately and another $5000 when available, but she’s yet to get a cent.
Morisue, who suffered a traumatic brain injury and spent two months recovering in hospital, says she can’t understand why Catlin has not been made to pay.
She’s annoyed she’s had to go looking for answers herself.
“It’s not just about money, it’s the principle.”
She’s back working 28 hours a week, and hopes to start working full-time next month, but continues to struggle with her memory and concentration.
She also suffers from back pain “24 hours a day”, and regularly sees an occupational therapist and a psychologist.
The reparation issue is stressing her out because she feels guilty at the financial burden her accident has placed on her family, she says.
That’s an estimated $10,000 – for her lost wages and the airfares, accommodation and living expenses her mother incurred to come to New Zealand to care for her.
Morisue doesn’t understand why “so little is being done to actually serve justice … Surely it cannot be so difficult to get in touch with him and demand payment. He’s in a secure facility after all”.
“My family’s financial burden has not been relieved at all.”
She can’t believe she’s had to go looking for answers about why Catlin hasn’t paid up.
The 34-year-old will be deported home to the UK after his release, and she’s worried the debt won’t be recovered before he’s out of reach of NZ authorities.
“I’m really concerned I’m not going to receive any reparation if it’s not followed up properly once he’s released,” Morisue says.
“Then he will leave the country and nothing else can be done.”
Questions remain whether Catlin even has the $2500 he told the court was immediately available to pay to Morisue. The sentencing judge, Bernadette Farnan, did not order a reparation report, which checks the defendant’s ability to pay.
Morisue’s been told by the Ministry of Justice it cannot pursue Catlin for the money while he’s in prison, but will assess his ability to pay once he’s served his sentence.
The lack of action by the court and the ministry has prompted the police to revisit the case. Southern District prosecution manager senior sergeant Peter Kirsopp says its prosecution service are considering making an application to bring Catlin back before the court for re-sentencing “to assist in the recovery of the reparation”.
Kirsopp says it’s a priority for the service “to ensure all victims are represented fairly in any sentencing”.
Despite an exchange of emails with the ministry, the Scene has yet to be given an explanation as to why nothing’s been done to make Catlin pay up, despite his legal obligation here to pay any court-ordered reparation within 28 days.
The ministry’s national service delivery group manager, Bryre Patchell, says the case is still with the district court’s collections unit. It can attempt to enforce payment “through the options it has available within the legislation”, even if the offender’s still in prison.
“However a victim may receive low repayments or no repayments in this situation, because there may be no assets to seize and sell and the offender may not have an income to which the court can attach a deduction order.”