No damages for man left quadriplegic by police shooting
Jonathan Crowley, right, with his father Keith Crowley. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
The family of a man rendered quadriplegic by a police bullet could quit the capital after the ACT Court of Appeal denied him $8 million in damages.
The distraught family rallied around Jonathan Crowley outside the ACT Supreme Court building as news of the verdict sank in.
Mr Crowley's father, Keith, is his son's primary caregiver and the family scrapes by on their combined superannuation and pension entitlements.
He said the family did not have the means to mount a High Court challenge and the only way to continue funding his son's care was to sell their home and move interstate.
The retired school principal is fighting cancer and must regularly catch the train for treatment at Westmead Hospital in Sydney.
Jonathan Crowley was in the grips of a psychotic episode in December 2001 when he left the family home with a kendo stick and walked through Chapman chanting religious slogans.
Two police officers failed to subdue him with capsicum spray before Senior Constable Glen Pitkethly shot him in the neck. The injury left Mr Crowley wheelchair-bound and requiring constant care.
The day before the shooting, an ACT Mental Health psychologist recommended Mr Crowley be treated at a hospital.
In May 2011, Justice Hilary Penfold awarded Mr Crowley $8 million damages after ruling ACT Mental Health and the Australian Federal Police had been negligent and owed Mr Crowley a duty of care.
But the Court of Appeal disagreed.
Justices Anna Katzmann, Bruce Lander and Anthony Besanko unanimously upheld appeals by the Australian Capital Territory and the Commonwealth of Australia and Mr Pitkethly, The trio found ''the trial judge erred in finding that a duty of care arose at any time'' after the police arrived on the scene.
''We consider that the trial judge erred in holding that the relationship between Mr Crowley and [ACT Mental Health] was that of health care provider and patient.
''[Justice Penfold] also erred in holding that ACTMH owed Mr Crowley a duty to provide appropriate treatment and care to him as a person for whom ACTMH had … taken on a responsibility.'' ''We do not think that the scope of the duty can be defined in terms of a duty to carry out an assessment.''
Mr Crowley said the finding was unexpected and devastating. ''[It was] a terrible, terrible decision for me after so many years of waiting for justice,'' Mr Crowley said.
''I felt quite positive about it so it's been a real shock. I can't understand the verdict at all, it doesn't make sense to me.''
Camille Corson, Mr Crowley's sister, said the family recently took out a loan for $15,000 for a wheelchair-accessible van so Mr Crowley could attend appointments with specialists. She said her parents and brother had been living on ''the sniff of an oily rag for 11 years''.