Friday, February 13, 2009

Damages doubled in police assault appeal

Damages doubled in police assault appeal

A man bashed by police has had his damages money doubled to $10,000 on appeal.

West Coast man Steven Fredericks was awarded exemplary damages of $5000 in October after a police officer elbowed him three times in the face while he sat handcuffed in a patrol car in September 2005.

Fredericks' lawyer, Jonathan McCarthy, appealed the amount on Wednesday at the High Court in Christchurch before Justice Panckhurst.

McCarthy said the $5000 awarded was a slap on the wrist "with a wet bus ticket".

Exemplary damages were punitive and needed to be a "sword of Damocles" hanging over police, whereas "this award is a kitchen knife with a very blunt edge", he said.

The average man in the street would "scoff in derision" at the suggestion $5000 was punitive.

McCarthy suggested $100,000 "would go a long way to achieving the deterrence effect that has yet to occur".

"These people are bully boys. They are precisely the people we don't want in the police.

"The message hasn't got through. Police officers are still beating people up."

Counsel for police, Fergus Sinclair, said the constable who assaulted Fredericks, Nathan Connolly, had since resigned from the police.

The judge in the original case, Colin Doherty, said the offending was "truly outrageous" and "a gratuitous assault".

McCarthy said monetary pressure was a sure way of ensuring change.

Sinclair said the $5000 was in keeping with the range established by previous cases.

The judge said awarding $100,000 would be "rewriting the law with respect to exemplary damages".

The one prior case where $15,000 exemplary damages was awarded arose due to negligence, whereas the case in question was a "deliberate act assault by a police officer".

He doubled the amount to $10,000 and awarded court and solicitors' fees.

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