Two striking cases

Judgments both, as it happens, handed down on 1 July this year.

Haysam Zreika v State of New South Wales [2011] NSWDC 67

After a hard-fought trial, Mr Zreika, who was held to have been wrongfully arrested (after which he was falsely imprisoned for some two months), assaulted (or more correctly, battered, though the judge did not consider the distinction relevant from the point of view of damages) and maliciously prosecuted, was awarded $304,000 damages (including aggravated damages for the wrongful arrest and aggravated and exemplary damages for the malicious prosecution) with interest to be determined.  (See update below).

The case includes aspects of police conduct of prosecutions which are familiar – handing over copies of CCTV which cannot be properly viewed or listened to; withholding exculpatory evidence; opposing bail on the basis of exaggerated and misleading fact sheets. All of these served to prolong the imprisonment and the prosecution. Even on the trial of the action, some important documents, subpoenaed long before, did not turn up until well into the trial.

and

Van Dyke v Sidhu [2011] NSWCA 187

The Court of Appeal upheld Ms Van Dyke’s appeal against the decision of Justice Gzell (before whom she was representing herself) to dismiss part of her case without even hearing any evidence. Apparently Justice Gzell took the view that the case was hopeless and acted pretty much of his own motion (though not without opposing counsel jumping onto the bandwagon) out of a zeal for efficiency. The Court of Appeal considered the zeal misplaced and ordered that the matter be sent back to be heard by any judge in the equity division other than Justice Gzell.

I have not seen reports of either of these cases in the press. I would have thought the first at least was newsworthy.

Update, 1 August 2011: the decision in Zreika has been reported in the SMH today.

Update, March 2012: on appeal the award of exemplary damages for malicious prosecution was reduced from $100,000 to $50,000 – State of New South Wales v Zreika [2012] NSWCA 37 .  This was on the basis that the judge had made an error (the reasoning for this is pretty odd – see [70]-[71]) and that therefore the Court of Appeal should assess it afresh, which it did in the lower amount.

2 Responses to “Two striking cases”

  1. O Says:

    Zreika is quite a story! I wonder how he was able to afford a three week DC trial though?

  2. marcellous Says:

    Possibly on a contingency basis. It was a strong case from the start. Mr Zreika is no stranger to the courts. The scar on his face from a previous stint in gaol referred to in the judgment of Walmsley DCJ arose out of a prison-yard assault for which he had to go to the Court of Appeal twice – first to get a verdict in his favour and then to get the damages upped. See (1) and (2). Kennedy SC appeared for him (as before Walmsley) in both and the same solicitors represented him.

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