Barr incorrectly refused dog attack victim payment: court told

Barr incorrectly refused dog attack victim payment: court told

ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr should be forced to reconsider his decision to refuse an ex-gratia payment for a young dog attack victim, a court has heard.

Lawyers for Jack Hartigan launched action in the ACT Supreme Court arguing Mr Barr had breached the rules of natural justice as he did not disclose the criteria for his refusal.


However, the ACT argued the decision did not breach Jack's legal rights.

In 2010, six-year-old Jack was mauled by two American Pit Bull Terriers while at a Griffith government housing property during a playdate with a school friend.


He suffered horrific injuries and psychological trauma as a result of the attack, with skin ripped from his head, his face torn open, teeth knocked out, and an eye damaged.

He has since been forced to endure numerous surgical procedures to repair the damage.


Last year, a court found the ACT Housing Commissioner was not liable for the attack, even though the animals were being kept without permission and had been the subject of repeated complaints.

Jack's lawyers, Ken Cush and Associates, then wrote to the ACT Treasurer to request an "act of grace” payment" in relation to his injuries.

Mr Barr, in a letter to the Hartigans, rejected the request.

A motion in the ACT Legislative Assembly last year, by Canberra Liberals MLA Steve Doszpot,
for the government to make an ex-gratia payment failed.


Documents filed in court showed Mr Barr had made the decision based on a ministerial brief that said the "incident had run its course through the courts and it was found the territory has no legal liability".

Jack's lawyers argue this advice had been incorrect and an error of law.

The case also argued the letter of rejection to the Hartigan's had not correctly set out the reasons and criteria for the refusal, allegedly in breach of rules of procedural fairness.

Jack’s barrister, Perry Herzfeld, said the government’s defence amounted to "the Treasurer can dispose of the application in bad faith, maliciously, and without review".

Mr Herzfeld said the policy and criteria for the decision should have been provided to his client.

The plaintiff sought a court order which would force the treasurer to reconsider the application for the payment.

In response, the ACT Government-Solicitor argued Mr Barr had not failed to afford Jack procedural fairness and had not fallen into legal error by basing the decision solely on the absence of legal liability.

It argued Jack was not entitled to have the matter re-examined by the Treasurer.

Associate Justice Verity McWilliam said the case hinged on the wording of the letter of rejection.

"I’ve got concerns about it," the judge told the court.

Associate Justice McWilliam reserved her decision.

Michael Inman is a courts reporter for The Canberra Times

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