The Supreme Court of South Australia has upheld an $854,000 compensation payment for a man whose leg was broken as police arrested him more than seven years ago

Davies

An xray reveals a sharp break in a bone.

The Supreme Court of South Australia has upheld an $854,000 compensation payment for a man whose leg was broken as police arrested him more than seven years ago.

Key points:

  • Matthew Charles Crossley’s femur was broken during his arrest in 2013 by officers using a leg lock move
  • Earlier this year, a court awarded him $854,000 in compensation, saying it was an “egregious” and “violent” arrest
  • The Supreme Court dismissed the government’s appeal against the verdict

SA Police officers used capsicum spray and a “figure four leg lock” as they tried to arrest Matthew Charles Crossley on Bank Street in the Adelaide CBD in March 2013.

The leg lock manoeuvre, designed to restrain someone thrashing or kicking, left Mr Crossley’s femur so badly broken that a 40-centimetre rod was inserted during surgery hours after the incident.

In February, the District Court ruled that the police officers had committed three acts of battery during the arrest and, in May, awarded Mr Crossley $700,000 in compensation for the “egregious” and “violent” arrest.

At the time, District Court Judge Sydney Tilmouth found the use of the leg lock to handcuff Mr Crossley was “unnecessary and excessive” because he was already restrained.

He added that Mr Crossley was entitled to resist the arrest because the officers’ failure to explain their reasoning rendered it “unlawful”.

More damages were added in July to bring the total to $854,313.

In an appeal to the Supreme Court, the State Government argued the officers had lawfully arrested Mr Crossley for disorderly behaviour.

a building exterior with "supreme court" signage

Police say the are still assessing the Supreme Court’s decision.(ABC News: Dean Faulkner)

Lawyers for the government argued that using pepper spray and the leg lock was lawful and justified in the circumstances.

But the court dismissed the appeal, on all grounds, in a judgement handed down this week.

In the reasons for the unanimous decision, Justice David Peek said the officers’ actions “were unjustified and unlawful, irrespective of whether or not [Mr Crossley] had been properly informed as to the reason for his arrest”.

“The judge was correct in finding that [Senior Constable] Lovell attempted to carry out a ‘figure four leg lock’ manoeuvre by applying his full body weight across the respondent’s legs while bending and twisting his left leg at the knee and that this was inherently dangerous and unjustified,” Justice Peek wrote.

‘I put spicier sauce on my steak’, man tells police

According to the judgment, evidence from police that Mr Crossley said “I put spicier sauce on my steak” or “I love f***ing pepper spray” after being sprayed did not prove that the spray had been ineffective.

An SA Police spokeswoman said it was “assessing the outcomes of the appeal and have no further comment to make”.

In a hearing earlier this year, Mr Crossley said he used crutches for six months and a walking stick for a further three-to-four months after the injury but was otherwise left “basically bed-bound” most of the time.

A police officer pushes a man's leg to the ground, demonstrating a defence tactic.

The figure four leg lock is included in the SA Police defensive tactics manual.(Supplied: Courts Administration Authority)

He has suffered complications with the rod, walks with a limp and will require continued rehabilitation as part of his ongoing recovery.

Additionally, his treating psychiatrist said he experiences symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression.

Mr Crossley told the court he had not worked since the incident because he was “not physically capable”.

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