Corinna Horvath is entitled to a remedy
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UN condemns Victoria's response to police bashing

The State of Victoria must be liable for the conduct of its police

21-year-old Corinna Horvath had some friends over for a barbecue when her door was kicked in by police.  She was tackled to the floor and 'brutally and unnecessarily' punched in the face up to a dozen times, breaking her nose and a tooth and rendering her unconscious.

18 years later, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has condemned Victoria's failure to compensate Ms Horvath adequately and discipline the police involved.

 Watch last night's 7:30 Report story here (8 min.)
What happened?

Corinna Horvath and her partner, Craig Love, had friends over for a barbecue one Saturday afternoon in 1996. At about 9:40pm, two police knocked on the door wanting to inspect her unroadworthy car for evidence it had recently been driven, contrary to police instruction. Ms Horvath refused and asked them to leave. A scuffle ensued, in which the police claim they were assaulted by Horvath and Love, but a County Court judge later found that Horvath and Love had "used no more force than was necessary" to prevent the police trespassing on their property. The police left and called for reinforcements.

At 10:30pm, 8 policemen surrounded the house. One "yelled … in a loud and aggressive voice" that the occupants should open the door, as they intended to make an arrest. The occupants refused, asking for evidence of a warrant. One of the officers then kicked open the front door "with great and sudden force", striking Ms Horvath's friend David in the face with the door.

This same officer then "pursued David … brought him to the floor ... struck him on the right side of the head and hit him at least once with a baton across his lower back." Another police officer then informed the first that David was not the man they sought to arrest.

The first officer then tackled Ms Horvath to the floor and "brutally and unnecessarily" punched her in the face, "rendering her senseless".  Ms Horvath has no recollection of this assault. She suffered a broken nose, chipped tooth, bruising and scratches to her face and body. Two officers then handcuffed her "in a manner that restricted her from reducing the pain and blood flow from her nose or otherwise relieving her injuries" and dragged her to their divvy van.

Ms Horvath was "not provided with immediate medical treatment" in police custody, but was instead "left screaming in pain in [a] cell". She was "eventually discovered by a police doctor who contacted her parents" and they called an ambulance. She was released from custody at about 12:20am and taken to hospital for emergency treatment.

A week later, Ms Horvath was admitted to hospital for 5 days to treat her facial injuries. She is left with scars on her nose and has been treated for anxiety and depression arising from the assault.

21-year-old Corinna Horvath, on the night she was assaulted by police (photo by her mum)

What has the UN said?

Corinna Horvath is a young woman who has fought a long and courageous struggle for justice after this violent assault.  In 2001, she won a 40-day trial in the County Court and was awarded $143,525 in compensation.  However, the police officers liable declared themselves either bankrupt or unable to pay.  Unlike in many other Australian states and territories, the Victorian Government is not vicariously liable for the unlawful conduct of its officers.

In 2008, having exhausted all options available to her in Australia, including the High Court, Ms Horvath appealed to the UN Human Rights Committee, alleging numerous breaches of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty Australia is bound to uphold.

This week, this UN committee of human rights experts has handed down its decision, finding Australia has failed to provide an effective remedy for the police abuses against Ms Horvath.

The right to remedy is fundamental.  It goes hand-in-hand with every other human right. If your human rights are violated, you are entitled to have something done about it.  Remedies should be 'adequate, effective and prompt' and 'proportional to the gravity of the violations and the harm suffered'.

The UN Human Rights Committee says Australia must remedy the violations against Ms Horvath, "including adequate compensation", and it must "prevent similar violations occurring in the future."

Specifically, Victoria must amend its laws to ensure future allegations of police misconduct are independently and impartially investigated and that victims are adequately, effectively and promptly compensated.  As is their human right.
Please write to the Premier seeking a remedy for Corinna
Lawyer Tamar Hopkins says Horvath's case is not unusual:

"Unfortunately, time and time again, stories of heavy-handed, violent treatment by police are told to community legal centres, lawyers and barristers across this state."

The UN has been clear: "a State cannot elude its responsibility for violations of the Covenant committed by its own agents."
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Most of all,
Thanks from all of us here at Remedy Australia.
Nick Toonen
Remedy Australia

Olivia Ball
Remedy Australia
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