NGOs speak out about the need for adequate compensation and investigation of police misconduct

The Human Rights Law Centre has joined with 12 other NGOs to urgently call for greater accountability for police misconduct in Victoria in the wake of a UN Human Rights Committee finding in favour of Ms Corinna Horvath who was brutally assaulted by police in 1996 and is yet to receive adequate compensation for her injuries.

“Individuals shouldn’t be left without compensation when they are brutally assaulted by police. Systemic reform is needed to ensure proper accountability and justice for victims,” said the HRLC’s Director of Advocacy & Strategic Litigation, Anna Brown.

In a joint letter to the Victorian Premier and Senior Ministers, 13 prominent legal and human rights organisations have called for justice for Ms Horvath and systemic reform of Victoria’s systems of police accountability, spurred by the recent finding of the UN Human Rights Committee in favour of Ms Horvath’s right to be adequately compensated and have her complaint properly investigated.  

In 1996, Ms Horvath was the victim of gross acts of violence by police officers. She was tackled to the ground and punched in the face by officers in her own home, sustaining injuries that required surgery and hospitalisation. In his 2001 judgment on the civil claim concerning the police officers’ conduct, Judge Williams found that the police assaulted and falsely imprisoned Ms Horvath, describing the event as:

“a terrifying act…[involving] excessive and unnecessary violence wrought out of unmeritorious motives of ill-will and a desire to get even...”

Despite these findings, Ms Horvath has never received the full damages awarded to her and the police involved in the incident have never been properly disciplined.  Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre assisted Ms Horvath to make a complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which found that Australia had failed to ensure she had access to an appropriate remedy for these violations.

Ms Brown said that despite welcome changes to vicarious liability for police conduct in the Police Act 2013 (Vic), further reform is needed to ensure that victims of police misconduct have their claims thoroughly investigated and receive proper and full compensation, in line with the findings of the UN Committee in the Horvath case.     

“It seems absurd but the more flagrantly police officers abuse their position and commit assaults or misconduct against members of the public, there is less ability for these victims to obtain compensation from the State,” said Ms Brown.

The joint letter also expresses concern to about the investigation of police misconduct and urges reform to ensure complaints are independently investigated in line with human rights standards. 

“Not only is it common sense to ensure investigations into police violence are independent, but it is also in keeping with international human rights law and in Victoria it would be in keeping with Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights,” Ms Brown said.

For more background on Ms Horvath’s complaint visit the Flemington Kensington Legal Centre website: