Corinna Horvath Decision
Solicitor Sophie Ellis provides a detailed history of the case:
UPDATE: November 2016
The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) announced that it has charged “a Victoria Police Leading Senior Constable with assault offences in relation to an incident in Hastings in March 1996.”
Leading Senior Constable Jenkin has been summonsed to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on December 19, charged with intentionally causing serious injury, recklessly causing serious injury, intentionally causing injury and recklessly causing injury in relation to an unlawful raid on Ms Horvath’s home in 1996.
IBAC’s statement on the charges can be found here.
UPDATE: 18 December 2014
The Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) is reviewing Victoria Police’s handling of Corinna Horvath’s complaint.
IBAC has initiated an own-motion review of the handling of Ms Corinna Horvath’s complaints alleging police assault in March 1996 and associated Victoria Police disciplinary action.
Former Supreme Court Justice The Hon Bernard Teague AO has been appointed by IBAC to lead the independent review.
UPDATE: 22 September 2014
Corinna Horvath, who was brutally assaulted by a group of Victoria police in 1996, has received an ex-gratia compensation payment from the State of Victoria with an accompanying written apology from Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police Ken Lay.
Read more here>
The United Nations Communication
As part of our strategy to increase access to justice for victims of police misconduct in Australia, the Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre has been acting for Corinna Horvath in a communication to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
An extremely significant decision by the Committee was handed down on 22 April 2014. The UN decision No. 1885/2009 is available in full here.
The Human Rights Committee’s decision on Horvath v Australia obligates the Australian Government to ensure that victims of police assault have a right to compensation and the ability to have complaints relating to police abuse heard by an independent body.
In a damning decision, the Human Rights Committee has found that remedying police violence requires Victoria to undertake responsibilities it has shirked up until this date. The UN Committee found that Australia breached Ms Horvath’s human rights by failing to provide her with an adequate remedy after members of Victoria Police assaulted her by brutally and unnecessarily punching her in the face (fracturing her nose and rendering her senseless), falsely imprisoning her and maliciously prosecuting her following an incident that took place on 9 March 1996.
Eighteen years after the assault, the UN has concluded that Ms Horvath was not been adequately compensated and that the disciplinary proceedings brought against the police members involved in her assault failed to meet the requirements of an effective remedy under Article 2, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
What the Victorian Government needs to do
The decision of the Human Rights Committee requires that the State of Victoria amend its legislation to ensure that the State is liable to compensate victims of police brutality. As a consequence, Victoria must ensure the Police Regulation Act 1958 and the new Police Act 2013 are amended so that the State is liable for the wrongdoing of on-duty police officers. Legislation in Queensland and NSW already makes the State liable to pay damages awarded against police, and we urge Victoria to also enact this model legislation. Importantly, transferring liability to the State will not encourage police members to act irresponsibly, as the State can still pursue individual officers through civil, criminal and/or disciplinary action. It should not be incumbent on victims of police misconduct to pursue officers who perpetrate violent acts against them.
Furthermore the UN decision requires that the State ensures that allegations of human rights abuses are investigated promptly, thoroughly and effectively through an independent and impartial body.
This decision makes it clear that internal investigations by Victoria Police do not reflect this international standard. The UN specifically found that by failing to call civilian witnesses to give evidence, withholding public access to the police disciplinary file, conducting a private hearing and refusing to reopen disciplinary proceedings after a civil finding in favour of Corinna Horvath, Victoria Police’s disciplinary process failed to provide an adequate remedy to Ms Horvath.
As a result of this decision, it is clear that police investigating allegations of police brutality constitutes a breach of human rights.
This Human Rights Committee’s decision will also be pertinent to the case of young Ethiopian Australian Nassir Bare whose appeal was heard in the Supreme Court of Victoria in May 2014.
In July 2014, thirteen Victorian and Australian legal, human rights and civil society organisations called for a transparent review of both the new Victoria Police Act 2013 (Vic) and the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2011 (Vic) in order for Victoria to remedy its breaches of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (‘ICCPR’).
In a four-page joint letter, addressed to Premier Napthine, the Attorney General, Leader of the Opposition and shadow ministers, the organisations urge a substantive response by the State of Victoria to the recent findings of the United Nations Human Rights Committee Corinna Horvath
According to the joint letter, “Victoria’s inadequate response to complaints of misconduct by police has been a recurring issue in Victoria for decades and is damaging to not only community trust in police, but also public confidence in societal institutions.”
Signitories to the letter include: The Law Institute of Victoria, the Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS), Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, The Justice and International Mission of the Uniting Church, Liberty Victoria, the Human Rights Law Centre, and the Federation of Community Legal Centres.
Australian Government has an obligation to respond to the UN Human Rights Committee by 23 September 2014.
A copy of the Joint Letter can be found here UNHRC_Joint letter_re Horvath (PDF)
‘It’s bigger than me now. It’s about everybody else who ends up in my position. If their police officers act as bad as what they do, they need to be responsible for them.’
Corinna Horvath, 5 May 2014
Help get Corinna a Remedy
Remedy Australia is a supporter-based organisation with a mandate to ensure that Australia to complies with UN decisions on human rights complaints, both past and future. Australia is obliged to remedy individual violations and put measures in place make sure that they never happen again.
Act on the Horvath case by sending this short letter to the Attorney-General, George Brandis, and the Victorian Premier, Denis Napthine: Take action now!
IBAC charges officer over alleged 1996 bashing of 21-year-old Corinna Horvath, Nino Bucci, The Age, 29 November 2016
Corinna Horvath: Victoria Police officer charged by IBAC over alleged 1996 assault, ABC news, 29 November 2016
Victoria Police to adopt IBAC recommendations amid calls for improvement to complaints handling process, Hamish Fitzsimmons, Lateline,
Police officer should be charged over 1996 attack on Corinna Horvath, IBAC told, Nino Bucci and Jane Lee, The Age, 17 November 2015
A Victoria Police officer who punched a woman in the face during an unlawful raid on her home almost 20 years ago should face assault charges, the state’s corruption watchdog has been told….
IBAC to review Corinna Horvath complaints to police, The Age, Jane Lee, December 18, 2014
The Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission is reviewing Victoria Police’s handling of allegations police attacked a woman almost 20 years ago…
Corinna Horvath attack: Woman bashed by police receives apology 18 years on, ABC News, September 22, 2014
Victoria Police apologises, pays compensation to Corinna Horvath The Age, Jane Lee,
UN Condemns inadequate response to police violence, Australian Lawyers Alliance, Sophie Ellis, 3 July, 2014
‘Abbott government says it is not legally bound to compensate Corinna Horvath‘ Sydney Morning Herald, Jane Lee, 30 June, 2014
‘Police Power and Abuse: A gap in Victoria’s legal system’, Right Now, Meghana Sharma 24 June, 2014
Liberty Victoria ‘Justice for Corinna Horvath is Long Overdue’ Media Release 7 May, 2014.
Victoria Police bashing breaches international convention, The World Today, Rachael Brown, 6 May 2014) .
Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission, ‘Media Statement on the UN Human Rights Committee findings on the police assault of Corinna Horvath in 1996‘, Media Release 6 May 2014.
UN says Victoria should compensate victim of police beating, The Age Jane Lee, 5 May 2014.
Justice for woman bashed by police 20 years ago, 7:30 (ABC-TV) Louise Milligan, 5 May 2014.
United Nations says Victoria breached International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by not compensating police bashing victim, ABC News, Louise Milligan, 5 May 2014.
UN to hear of women’s brutal bashing, The Age, August 31, 2008.
Corinna Horvath was brutally assaulted by a group of police officers during a raid on her home in March 1996. Ms Horvath was 21 years of age at the time. As a result of the unlawful police raid on her property, Ms Horvath had her nose fractured and was subsequently required to be hospitalised for five days.
She was later maliciously prosecuted. Despite taking her case all the way to the High Court of Australia, Ms Horvath has still not received the compensation awarded to her by the County Court when it first heard the case in 2001.
In 2001, Judge Williams of the County Court described the event as ‘an outrageous display of police force in a private house…[involving] excessive and unnecessary violence wrought out of unmeritorious motives of ill-will and a desire to get even’.
Despite clear findings of fact in civil proceedings against all officers involved in the raid on Ms Horvath, no employment consequences flowed from the decision. The Chief Commissioner of Police and the State of Victoria should have acted and now must act immediately on the civil findings. The standard of proof in disciplinary and civil proceedings is the same. Failure to act leaves the police members involved in the incident still employed and capable of acting similarly against other Victorians.
No disciplinary proceedings ever resulted in punitive measures and the officers involved have been subsequently promoted.
Ms Horvath was forced to settle for a paltry amount of compensation, as the state chose to hide behind narrow principles of vicarious liability, and key police officers filed for bankruptcy.
Furthermore not one of the police involved have been dismissed from Victoria Police or prosecuted for assaulting her.
In 2007, Dyson Hore-Lacy SC, who had appeared at the original trial and in the subsequent High Court Appeal, recognised that Ms Horvath had exhausted all domestic remedies and could attempt to seek justice under the International Covernant of Civil and Political Rights to which Australia is a signitory. Hore Lacey initiated steps with her that would become the Communication to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre readily agreed to take the matter on when approached.
The Communication below was submitted on 19 August 2008, to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, seeking compensation from the State and effective discipline of police officers who so shamefully abused her. It was submitted by the Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre with Dyson Hore-Lacy SC and Michael Stanton assisting.
The Australian Government submitted a response in March 2010.
After reviewing this, the Legal Centre, with assistance of Mr David Brett, Dyson Hore-Lacy SC, Michael Stanton and Phoebe Knowles issued a comprehensive response to the defence in July 2010.
Corinna waited six years for a response. The final decision by the Committee was handed down on 22 April 2014.
The International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights places the burden on the State to ensure that police do not abuse human rights, regardless of police intent when they act. It further requires the State to compensate victims where this has occurred. The Victorian government, unlike the compensation regimes in NSW and Qld, has not met this international obligation.
Ms Horvath has shown great courage and commitment to justice in making this communication to the UN. It is hoped that the impact of her bravery and tenacity will benefit all Victorians through generating real legislative reform that will ensure the safety and human rights of all people in this State and throughout Australia.
Finally, we wish to acknowledge the critical role Dyson Hore-Lacy SC, Mr David Brett, Michael Stanton and Tamar Hopkins have played throughout this process. We would not have the UN decision without their continuous work and commitment to bring this decision to fruition.