The Plaintiff had attended a dog mauling that resulted in the death of a teenage boy, as well as two alleged rapes of young children in September to November of 2004. The Plaintiff alleged that his psychiatric injury would have been less severe if QAS had provided him with support as called for by its own policy. The Plaintiff said that his behaviour whilst attending a training course should have been a “red flag” for his distress related to the cases he attended.
As his employer, the QAS owed the Plaintiff a duty to take reasonable care to avoid psychiatric injury to him. What was in issue was whether the QAS had breached that duty.
The Plaintiff’s evidence conflicted in many important respects with evidence given by his co-workers. The judge assessed these conflicts as being due to poor memory and prolonged stressful rumination over the incidents rather than any deliberate exaggeration. Several colleagues testified that they had spoken to the Plaintiff after the cases and he had assured them he was fine. Further, the Peer Support Officer testified she had offered him assistance and he had declined it.
The QAS had a system in place called Piority One which included a peer support program, self-referral counselling, telephone counselling and critical incident stress debriefing (which was aimed at groups). The Plaintiff admitted at trial that he knew what support services were available to him through the QAS and that he had received instruction on how to manage job-related stress. He also admitted that he knew the symptoms of a stress reaction. There was therefore an adequate system in place. The Plaintiff failed to take advantage of it.
The Plaintiff alleged that the QAS should have ensured he received help. Henry J observed that the Plaintiff’s case that the QAS was obliged to ensure that he received assistance failed to respect the importance of maintaining the autonomy of the individual, applying Hegarty v QAS  QSC 36. That imposing assistance through an intervention is not a successful strategy was supported by evidence that such a strategy had been trialled in Toowoomba and Rockhampton in the 1990’s. Mandatory follow-ups were imposed but discontinued after a few months, partially because of staff resentment.
Henry J dismissed the claim.
See judgment here: https://www.sclqld.org.au/caselaw/QSC/2018/188