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Compensation for police misconduct

Why Sue?

Some injured activists have been pursuing their legal rights under civil law to ensure that the actions of police officers are held accountable.

Suing the police if you are injured has benefits and limitations. On the one hand, litigation allows protestors to challenge the lawfulness of the use of force during demonstrations and protests by bringing a case before judges and juries for adjudication. It also allows injured protestors to obtain compensation for their injuries and medical expenses. Litigation often attracts media attention, and can help raise public awareness about a social issue. In some special cases, courts may award exemplary or punitive damages if the acts of the police officers are particularly dangerous and abusive of human rights.

On the downside, suing the police can be long and arduous because of the public resources at the disposal of the Victoria Police and the State of Victoria. There are also technical legal arguments which can complicate who is ultimately responsible for the actions of police officers. In addition, the remedies available in a court are often limited - you can't get an apology, or an enforceable commitment from the police not to behave in the same way again.

For a detailed report on Civil Litigation against police see: Civil Litigation by Citizens Against Australian Police Between 1994 and 2002 by Dr Jude McCulloch and Mr Darren Palmer, Deakin University (19/01-02) at the Criminology Research Council http://www.aic.gov.au