Champion kickboxer turned prisoner awarded damages after jail attack

Date: Jan 14, 2019

A former world-renowned kickboxer turned inmate has been awarded damages after a NSW prison breached its duty of care. But what was the incident that led to his victory in court?

Background of the case

On the morning of October 1, 2009, the plaintiff, whilst on remand within the Metropolitan Reception and Remand Centre (MRRC) at the Silverwater Correctional Complex, encountered an unprovoked attack by a fellow inmate.

Whilst in a common area, the attacker hit the plaintiff over the head twice with a sandwich press contained in a pillowcase. The incident was caught on closed-circuit television (CCTV).

The victim sustained a number of serious injuries from the attack, including brain injury, a fractured skull and injury to his spine.

Following the attack, the plaintiff filed a Statement of Claim seeking damages for his injuries from the defendant, the State of NSW (the authority responsible for the operation of prisons in the state).

The events that occurred before the attack

In court it was revealed that two other altercations between the victim and attacker took place on the same day before the sandwich-press incident. The first occurred in the plaintiff's cell which was not recorded on CCTV. However, it's believed the attacker threatened the plaintiff and officers were made aware of the incident. The second took place just seven minutes before the main attack, where the two men can be seen shaking hands.

The plaintiff's argument

During the hearing, the plaintiff explained a duty of care had been breached because the prison failed to:

  • Separate the attacker from the plaintiff after the initial interaction.
  • Protect the plaintiff from a risk of serious injury.
  • Regard the attacker's poor custodial record. 

While the defendant agreed they owed a duty of care toward the plaintiff, they denied any breach.

Coming to a decision

After quashing that contributory negligence played any part in the altercation, the court looked to both prisoner's behaviours:

  • Despite being a highly regarded kickboxer, the plaintiff did not have any prior record of violence in prison, nor did evidence suggest he conducted himself in any dangerous way.
  • The attacker on the other hand, had an extensive history of criminal convictions and offences whilst in prison.

The court concluded that the plaintiff had effectively found a breach of duty and was therefore granted damages (amount yet to be decided).

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