List member Brett Charrington appeared for the Respondent in Eastment v State of Queensland  QCA 253.
The Appellant was a custodial corrections officer at the Maryborough Correctional Centre who, on 8 March 2009, was assaulted by a prisoner. He brought a claim for damages for personal injury, alleging negligence and breach of implied terms.
The Appellant alleged that the prisoner had convictions for violent offences and had been assessed as a risk to prison staff. He had displayed actual violence towards prison officers. Furthermore another officer, Officer Linnenlucke, had alleged that during a committal hearing on the 6th of March, the prisoner had been agitated and had displayed aggressive behaviour that concerned her and that she had verbally reported this behaviour to her supervisor and to the Intelligence Officer.
The Appellant alleged that the report should have led to the prisoner being placed in a detention unit. The Appellant also alleged that the prisoner had refused his medication on 8th March and that the guards should have been told of this, and of the prisoner’s behaviour on the 6th. The Defence alleged that nothing happened at the committal hearing that should have resulted in any kind of case note or report, or that gave rise to any concerns.
The Appellant’s claims were dismissed, and he appealed. At the appeal the issues of breach of duty were limited to the failure by Officer Linnenlucke to complete a written report and the failure by the Intelligence Officer to pass on the information he got from Officer Linnenlucke.
During cross-examination the audio from the committal hearing was played. None of the events alleged by Officer Linnenlucke were audible on it. Officer Linnenlucke agreed that she could not remember specific events. Evidence from those who saw the prisoner after the hearing was to the effect that he was not at all agitated.
The intelligence officer recalled a phone call with Officer Linennlucke but denied that she had expressed fears for her safety, or the safety of other officers, instead stating that she had merely said that the prisoner had been to court and was agitated. He said that he had passed that information along but the trial judge found that was based more on what he thought he would have done rather than what he remembered doing. Morrison JA, with whom Philippides JA agreed, found that had the prisoner been agitated at the hearing or had Officer Linnenlucke expressed fears for her safety then the Intelligence Officer may have been in breach for not passing on that information on, but in the circumstances where neither allegation was found to be true, there was no breach. McMurdo J observed that the Intelligence officer did breach his duty but it did not cause the injury.
In terms of causation, the Appellant alleged that had he been told of the prisoner’s alleged agitation and officer Linnenlucke’s concerns he and the other officer involved would have taken precautions. However it was found that even had they known about the prisoners’s alleged agitation during the hearing, they would also know that he was calm later on that day, and the day before the attack. It was also found that the proposed precautions would likely not have prevented the attack.
Morrison JA, Philippides and McMurdo JJA agreeing, dismissed the appeal.
See judgment here: https://www.sclqld.org.au/caselaw/QCA/2018/253
Case note written by Krystal Harlen