Landmark decision by Court of Appeal paves way for Youthlaw human rights case

Last Friday the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria made a landmark decision to grant a protective cost order to our client Nassir Bare.  Without this order he would have had to discontinue his appeal. The appeal will now proceed.

This decision is a first for Victoria and will create a legal precedent to protect people bringing public interest cases where they might otherwise be stopped from doing so by prohibitive costs.

The decision was made by the highest court in Victoria and will be influential nationally.  Australia has no national laws regulating costs in public interest cases and few court decisions.

The anti-corruption body  IBAC and the Victorian Attorney-General opposed the costs order arguing that public interest  was not a sufficient reason for costs to be restricted  and that the appeal case is unlikely to be successful .

The order restricts any costs against our client to $5,000.  Compare this to the possibility of hundreds of thousands of dollars and you can understand why this decision is so significant.

The substantive case is about the accountability of police when they misuse and abuse their powers.  Our client Nassir Bare a vulnerable young man was assaulted at the age of 17 by police and requested his complaint be investigated not by police but by an independent body. His complaint was sent to the OPI (now IBAC) but they refused to investigate and referred it to Victoria Police.  It is at this point that this test case began by challenging the decision by IBAC.

IBAC  currently only investigates 1% of complaints against police. The rest are investigated by Victoria Police.

The appeal follows a March decision by Justice Williams of the Supreme Court. Justice Williams found against Nassir Bare and in favour of  IBAC. The court case heard that Nassir was subjected to a serious assault, including being capsicum sprayed while handcuffed and being racially abused at the hands of Victoria Police officers in February 2009. At issue was the right to independent review of the allegations rather than investigation by police themselves.

Both the Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and the Attorney-General have intervened in the case as it calls into question whether IBAC has complied with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.

We thank the legal team at Maddocks and counsel Jason Pizer, Emrys Nekvapil and Fiona Spencer for their exceptional pro bono assistance.

Reasons for today’s decision, which sets an important precedent, will be handed down in court on Friday 9th August 2013 at 9.45am.

Read the following media coverage of the decision:

For media comment at or after the hearing on Friday 2 August:

Ariel Couchman, Director (Youthlaw) mobile: 0438 812 937

For media assistance contact:

Darren Lewin-Hill, Communications Manager (Federation of Community Legal Centres) mobile: 0488 773 535