A South Australian Supreme Court Judge has awared over $700,000 in damages to 10 people bashed with batons, capsicum sprayed and locked in a shipping container at a protest against the Beverley Uranium Mine in May 2000. The judge slammed the “Star Force” special response police for abusing human rights and using excessive force. He also slammed the Deputy Premier and Police Minister for refuseing to mediate a solution and publically calling the demonstrators “feral”.
Those awarded damages included 8 protestors, an eleven year old Aborignal girl and a Channel Seven cameraman. The largest payout to an individual was over $90,000. The Supreme Court Judge Timothy Anderson in his ruling said on the issue of protestors being held in a shipping container “"It was degrading, humiliating and frightening," he said. "It was an affront to the civil liberties of the protesters. " He added“The conditions were oppressive, degrading and dirty, there was a lack of air, there was the smell from capsicum spray and up to 30 persons were crammed into a very small space."
Judge Timothy Anderson found some of the force used by police was unwarranted: "Some of those arrested, some being plaintiffs, were mere passive observers, several of whom were taking video footage."
In criticizing the Deputy Premier of South Australia Mr Foley who publically criticized the protestors as “feral” Justice Anderson said his comments, which came when the government withdrew from attempts to resolve the case through mediation, were both unreasonable and antagonistic.
"The comments are one-sided and do not acknowledge the extreme way in which the police dealt with protesters and the circumstances of their detention," the judge said.
He also criticised Police Minister Michael Wright who had rejected the idea of a settlement because of its potential to undermine the good standing of the South Australian police and encourage others to sue.
"It is my view that both ministers, in making these statements, have acted with a high-handed and contumelious disregard of the plaintiffs as citizens of the state with a right to protest, and with the right to be treated according to law if they did protest," Justice Anderson said.