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Police shooting wheelchair victim

awarded $8m but fight not over

BY LOUIS ANDREWS COURT REPORTER
11 Jun, 2011 12:00 AM
A man rendered a quadriplegic after a police shooting almost a decade ago has been awarded $8million in damages.But the legal battle is set to continue for Jonathan Anthony Crowley and his family, who waited more than two years for Justice Hilary Penfold to deliver her verdict on his negligence claim, with two of the defendants already flagging intent to appeal. 

Mr Crowley, who was confined to a wheelchair after the December 11, 2001 shooting, sued the Australian Federal Police, the officer who shot him and ACT Mental Health. Last month, Justice Penfold found all three defendants breached their duties of care towards Mr Crowley.

Parties reached an agreement on the quantum of damages, avoiding potentially months of further legal wrangling in front of the judge to determine the sum.

Justice Penfold entered a judgment for Mr Crowley yesterday, days before his 44th birthday, in the amount of $8million and ordered the defendants to pay his costs.

But the Commonwealth, the territory and the officer will now have to settle on apportionment of the damages.

And the Commonwealth and Glen Pitkethly, the police officer who pulled the trigger, flagged yesterday intent to appeal against the decision.

The ACT Supreme Court also heard it was likely ACT Mental Health would also seek advice about fighting the ruling.

The potential challenges mean it could be some time before Mr Crowley sees the bulk of his pay-out.

Mr Crowley welcomed the decision yesterday but said the prospect of appeals was daunting.

”Well, it’s only half what we were seeking but we didn’t really have the money to fight on for that, so we’re fairly happy to settle on that amount [$8million],” Mr Crowley said.

”[Appeals] scare me … because we’re pretty much in desperate need for better physio and better equipment.

”And longer hours for care, because we’re really struggling at the moment.”

Several days before the shooting, Mr Crowley, 34, showed signs of a psychotic episode.

The day before the shooting, an ACT Mental Health psychologist assessed him at his home and recommended he be treated at a hospital.

The next morning Mr Crowley left the family home in Chapman with a kendo stick and walked through the suburb chanting religious slogans and scaring neighbours.

The two officers approached him and tried unsuccessfully to subdue him with capsicum spray before Mr Pitkethly shot him in the neck shortly after calling for back-up.

The matter is due back in court next month.

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