An arts student whose knee was fractured by a police officer after she was caught without a train ticket has been awarded more than $243,000 in damages.
Rachel Gardner sued the NSW Police Force, claiming she was kicked, sat on, handcuffed, pushed against a fence, loaded into a paddy wagon and then dumped at a nearby train station without charge after she was caught without a train ticket on March 13, 2011.
In the Sydney District Court on Friday, the force was ordered to pay Ms Gardner $243,591 plus interest.
Judge Sharron Norton awarded $120,000 in damages for assault/trespass to the person, $15,000 in wrongful arrest damages, $10,000 in aggravated damages, $10,000 in exemplary damages. She also ordered the force to pay $3591 for past gratuitous care, $30,000 for future economic loss, $30,000 for future treatment, and $25,000 for future assistance.
Outside the court, Ms Gardner's lawyer Penelope Purcell said her client "feels vindicated by the judgment".
Ms Gardner was at Cronulla station with two tourist friends just before midnight when they were approached by transit officers and found to be without tickets.
An altercation ensued when the tourists could not produce identification and police attended.
Ms Gardner claimed that, when she protested that one of the tourists was being pinned to the ground by a transit officer, acting Sergeant Craig Sands kicked both her legs out from under her, breaking her right leg.
In her statement of claim, it was alleged that Sergeant Sands then directed a transit officer to sit on her while she was lying face down on the platform before she was handcuffed, told she was under arrest and put in a paddy wagon.
When she objected to what she believed was an unlawful arrest, an officer said "we don't care if this is legal", the statement said.
Ms Gardner was not taken to a police station and charged. Instead, she was driven to Sutherland railway station and "left to fend for herself in a seriously injured condition".
She sought damages of up to $750,000 for the injuries as well as the humiliation, disgrace, mental suffering, emotional distress, fear and anxiety, loss of social status and inconvenience caused by assault, false arrest and false imprisonment. A doctor's report said she was likely to develop osteoarthritis within five to 10 years.
Her aspirations to become a filmmaker would also be hindered as well as attempts to get casual work while studying at the University of NSW College of Fine Arts, the court heard.
Barrister Geoffrey Petty, SC, said the only record of the incident was a standard internal log that was "brief in the extreme".
He said CCTV footage showed the kick "as plain as daylight" and also showed the officers chatting on the station as Ms Gardner limped away.
The police initially denied all Ms Gardner's claims and said she bit and kicked officers.
On Friday, Police Media released a statement saying: "NSW Police Force notes today's court decision.
The NSWPF is currently reviewing the judgement in order to determine its options."
The story Student Rachel Gardner awarded $243,000 after police break leg first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.