Police Misconduct Lawyer May Sue Government

Police Misconduct Lawyer May Sue Victorian Government

A lawyer is considering suing the Victorian government for prosecuting him for failing to repay legal costs for his former clients, who were beaten by police officers.

Mark Morgan represented Corinna Horvath and three others against the state in 2001, five years after they were beaten by eight Victoria Police officers over a dispute about an unroadworthy car.

The County Court awarded all four – including Ms Horvath’s partner Craig Love, Colleen and David Kniese – compensation, which they were never paid because the then Bracks government successfully appealed the decision. The Court of Appeal decided the state was not responsible for police officers who acted outside reasonable procedures.

The Victorian government’s solicitor then pursued Mr Morgan for contempt of court in 2007 after he failed to pay the state more than $400,000 in legal costs. He had previously agreed to underwrite his clients’ court costs if they lost.

The Court of Appeal exonerated him in 2008, saying he had been unable to pay the legal costs. The judges called him ‘‘foolish’’ for accepting personal liability for his clients’ costs and criticised the state for its ‘‘aggressive’’ approach to his debt, which it said fell short of its duties as a model litigant.

Mr Morgan called the state’s prosecution an extraordinary attempt to ‘‘criminalise’’ his debt.

‘‘I didn’t have the financial resources at the time to sue them for abuse of process,’’ he said.

He spoke with Fairfax Media after the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee decided last week that Victoria should compensate Ms Horvath and amend legislation to make the government vicariously liable for all police misconduct.

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