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Landmark decision removes fear of costs from public interest appeal seeking independent investigation of police misconduct

Nassir Bare, a young man of African background, will be protected from prohibitive legal costs in an appeal seeking independent investigation of alleged police misconduct, following a landmark decision on Friday 2 August 2013 by the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
 
The appeal is against a March decision by Supreme Court Justice Williams, who found against Nassir Bare and in favour of the OPI (now IBAC) regarding the effectiveness and independence of the investigation of alleged police misconduct. This included Nassir being subjected to a serious assault, being capsicum sprayed while handcuffed and being racially slurred at the hands of Victoria Police officers in February 2009 when he was 17 years old.
 
When Nassir originally complained to the then OPI of his mistreatment, the OPI referred the matter back to police for investigation. Not wanting police to investigate his complaint against the police, Nassir sought legal help from Youthlaw, who initiated Supreme Court action with pro bono legal counsel from Maddocks, who are also acting for Nassir in his appeal.
 
First for Victoria
 
Ariel Couchman is interviewed by ABC News“The decision to give Nassir protection from costs in his appeal is a first for Victoria and will be influential nationally, with Australia having no national laws regulating costs in public interest cases. It means that vulnerable people bringing public interest cases will not be discouraged by the fear of significant legal costs if they are not successful,” said Ariel Couchman, Director of Youthlaw, in a media statement.
 
The respondents' costs that could be awarded against Nassir should he be unsuccessful in the appeal will now be capped at $5,000, compared to potential costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars if the protective costs order had not been made.
 
IBAC and Victorian A-G oppose costs order
 
Counsel for IBAC and the Victorian Attorney-General opposed the costs order, but were unsuccessful in their submissions to prevent it being made. The appeal, which would have been discontinued without protection from costs, will now proceed.
 
“The fear of significant legal costs should not be used by the Victorian Government to deter public interest legal action that goes to the heart of accountability of police and their use of force in this State. This decision reflects the need to protect the right of vulnerable people without legal means to stand up for their rights on important public interest issues,” Ms Couchman said in a media statement.
 
Reasons for the decision, which sets an important precedent, will be available on Friday 9 August 2013.
 
Related information and media coverage
 
 
For media comment:
 
Ariel Couchman, Director, Youthlaw, mobile: 0438 812 937 
 
For media assistance:
 
Darren Lewin-Hill, Communications Manager, Federation of Community Legal Centres, mobile: 0488 773 535
 

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