Sober reality of law and justice
No one is advised to approach the law or the legal system in the belief that justice will be done. If they did harbour that delusion, a cursory examination of the case involving Jonathan Crowley would disabuse them. On December 10, 2001, Mr Crowley had been visited at home in suburban Chapman by a psychologist from ACT Mental Health, who recommended that he be treated at a hospital. The next day, however, Mr Crowley was seen wandering the street in an obvious psychotic state. He was carrying a bamboo staff and muttering religious incantations, but had not attacked anyone. Police were called. A confrontation took place. There was a failed attempt to subdue Mr Crowley with capsicum spray, and one of the officers was struck with the staff. Mr Crowley was then shot in the neck by Senior Constable Glen Pitkethly and rendered a quadriplegic. He spent months in hospital, and continues to require round-the-clock care from his ageing parents.
The following year, lawyers for Mr Crowley filed suit in the ACT Supreme Court seeking damages for his injuries. The Australian Federal Police and ACT Mental Health were named as defendants, along with Senior Constable Pitkethly and the Commonwealth (legally responsible for the wrongful acts of AFP members). Before the case was heard, an AFP investigation into the shooting found the officers acted appropriately and within existing guidelines.
Extensive delays meant it was not until June 2011 that Justice Hilary Penfold delivered her judgment awarding Mr Crowley damages of $8 million. She found, among other things, that the AFP and ACT Mental Health had breached their duty of care to him. The ACT, the Commonwealth and Senior Constable Pitkethly all appealed against the judgment, and this week the full bench of the ACT Court of Appeal allowed that appeal, finding that Justice Penfold had ''erred'' and that no duty of care arose.
Since ACT Mental Health had not actually taken Mr Crowley into care, the court said it could not be said to have owed him a duty of care. More controversially, it found that at no time did the two police officers owe Mr Crowley a duty of care, and even if they had ''it could not be said that by their actions they had assumed responsibility for Mr Crowley or that they had sufficient control over him and his conduct so that they were in a position to take reasonable steps to avoid the risk of injury to him''.
With the benefit of hindsight, it might be argued that had ACT Mental Health acted with greater haste and urgency - and that had the AFP officers been warned of Mr Crowley's mental state, and awaited back-up - the shooting may not have occurred. If legally correct, the Appeal Court's decision has exacerbated the Crowley family's tragedy.
Not only have they been denied damages, but they now face a massive bill for legal costs. Perhaps the only redeeming feature of this sorry saga is that the AFP is now highly aware of the need for officers to be trained to deal adequately and sensitively with offenders or suspects who are mentally ill.
Try these for size
Those of us not au courant with the term may think pop-up architecture has something to do with building plans with cut-out portions that unfold to reveal a three-dimensional view of a bedroom or office - rather like pop-up books.
In fact, pop-up architecture is a term used to describe temporary structures erected in and around city centres, made of inexpensive or environmentally friendly materials, to house anything from art displays to kiosks and even cafes.
Come the New Year and the Enlighten Festival, Canberrans will be able to experience pop-up architecture for the first time when modified shipping containers are placed in the city for use as art and cafe spaces.
Architecture collective CanberraLab's ''urban interventions'', conceived with the help of local artists and designers, are intended to enliven the city centre and to engage people in discussions about architecture and town planning.
As those familiar with the Brodburger caravan saga or the Aboriginal tent embassy well know, Canberra does not always embrace temporary structures.
The very idea of impermanence may send shivers down the spines of planners and upright burghers, but that is what gives pop-up architecture its impact and indeed its allure.