An Australian police horse dribbled on a protester – and that may be the only thing parties ultimately agree upon as a compensation case heads for court.
The Victorian police union is reported to be outraged at the supposed use of taxpayers’ money to sue the force after a protester was dribbled on by a police horse during action organised by the Refugee Action Collective at the Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre in 2011.
However, the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre, spearheading the action on behalf of two protesters, Alexander Forbes and Mark Ryan, says the case is not about a salivating horse at all, but centres on alleged assault and unlawful battery.
The centre’s executive director, Anthony Kelly, said the media publicity had trivialised and misrepresented a serious compensation case filed in the Country Court.
“The case involves police horses being used at a protest that resulted in one of our clients on crutches for almost a month and another who suffered a broken collarbone after a horse rolled on top of him,” Kelly said.
“Both people involved were transported by ambulance to the local hospital for their injuries.”
He described the use of horses as an anachronistic, Victorian-era policing method.
“The reason horse saliva was even mentioned in the Statement of Claim was as evidence that one of the clients was hemmed in at the edge of a crowd of people directly under a police horse’s head whilst marching, was in fear of being trampled or bitten by the horse; felt frightened and intimidated by the horse; and moved away from the horse as soon as he was able to do so.”
Kelly said cases such as this were, at times, the only way for people who have been injured by police to seek redress.
“The Victorian Parliament has not had any regulatory oversight on how police horses are used for many decades.”
Kelly said the case did not draw on legal aid and was not eligible.
The pair were being assisted by counsel working on a “no-win, no fee” basis, he said.
The cost to the taxpayer for a case such as this was negligible, he said.
“This centre sees over 600 people each year for a wide range of legal problems. We are proud of the work we do representing vulnerable, injured Victorians and for those who have no other options to seek justice.”
Kelly said the centre strongly believed that police horses should not be used as a method of crowd control in this day and age.
He called for an immediate and total ban on the use of horses at future public protests.
“Horses should simply not be used as a method of crowd control. When horses are run directly into or near large crowds of people who can not move back it is too easy for people to be violently pushed by the horses, to fall under, and be trampled. The risk of serious, life threatening injuries to people when horses are used is far too great.
“Horses are an anachronistic, Victorian-era policing method that has no place in modern society.” he said. “The continued use of horses as crowd control threatens the right of every Victoria to participate in peaceful assemblies without being seriously injured by police action.”