Prison officer loses negligence claim against State of Queensland

16 OCT 2018

 

In March 2009, Mr Phillip Eastment was a custodial corrections officer at the Maryborough Correctional Centre. On 8 March 2009, he and another officer were working in a secure area when a prisoner began to assault the other officer. Officer Eastment intervened and the prisoner began striking him as well and yelling threats at him.

A few days earlier on 6 March 2009, the prisoner was taken to the Magistrates Court in order to participate in a committal hearing concerning an earlier alleged assault committed by the prisoner on another prison officer. There was evidence that the prisoner became agitated at the committal, yelled out to another officer and acted in an angry and aggressive manner.

Initial proceedings

Officer Eastment commenced proceedings in the District Court of Queensland against the State, in negligence and claimed damages. He alleged that the State was negligent in failing to provide a safe system of work.

The main issue for determination was whether there was evidence to find that the prisoner behaved in a manner at the committal hearing on 6 March 2009 that warranted action to alert officers at the Correctional Centre of that behaviour. Officer Eastment argued that had the information been passed on, the incident where the prisoner assaulted Officer Eastment would not have occurred.

Her honour was not satisfied that there was any aggressive, threatening or agitated behaviour by the prisoner at the court hearing on 6 March 2009, sufficient to give notice that an assault upon an officer by the prisoner was imminent.

Officer Eastment’s claim was dismissed on the basis that no breach of duty had been demonstrated and causation had not been established.

On appeal

Officer Eastment appealed the primary judge’s decision. He argued that there were various errors in law and that the findings of the primary judge were against the weight of the evidence.

The only issue was liability, as quantum was agreed between the parties.

The court found no error in the primary judge’s findings and dismissed Officer Eastman’s appeal: Eastment v State of Queensland

For more information on the above contact Joe Bonura on (02) 4626 5077 or jbonura@marsdens.net.au.

This article first appeared in the CCH Australian Tort, Personal Injury, Health and Medical Law Tracker and is reproduced in full with permission from CCH, a division of Wolters Kluwer Australia: www.wolterskluwer.cch.com.au

The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication

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