Liability claims by police

Dr Peter Anderson1

1Berry Road Forensic Practice, St Leonards Nsw, St Leonards, Australia

Background

The author has examined 30 former NSW police officers taking common law action, suing the State of NSW for negligent breach of duty of care. All have diagnoses of Chronic PTSD caused by accumulative trauma.

Objectives

To shed light upon the questions of when the employer might reasonably have known there was a developing psychological injury, what the employer might reasonably have done in response, and whether that would have changed the outcome.

Method

My 30 files are reviewed. Each contains treatment records; independent psychological and psychiatric reports; internal police psychology and medical records; service records; management records; NSW Police Force Policy documents about prevention and management of psychological injury.

The file review allows for discovery of fair quality data about ongoing clinical features and impairment levels, duration and type of police work undertaken, duration of symptoms prior to diagnosis. The date at which the employer is on notice about psychological injury and actions taken in response can reasonably be identified.

Findings

Symptoms of developing psychological in jury precede diagnosis or employer awareness by years. Possible management action includes removal from traumatic exposure and psychological treatment. Sometimes there is a gap between policy and practice, and traumatic exposure continues.

Conclusions

Reasons for delay in diagnosis, for delay in notification of employer, and for delay in management action are explored and identified.

The legal process and outcomes are discussed.


Biography:

Peter Anderson has been a Fellow of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists since 1977, and has run a part-time medicolegal practice for more than 30 years, as well as treating patients.

With the passage of time he noticed that many of his treatment patients were police. A special interest in trauma followed and that has led to an interest in the way that occupational trauma is handled in the legal process.

He has now seen an estimated two thousand police officers all up, with the referrals coming from both sides of the legal argument. Latterly there has been a run of liability cases from plaintiff lawyers.