David Eastman seeks $18 million in compensation after wrongful murder conviction


October 03, 2019 15:03:17

David Eastman, who was acquitted last year of the 1989 murder of one of Australia’s top police officers, is asking for almost $1 million for each of the 19 years he was in jail.

Key points:

  • David Eastman’s lengthy legal battles have already cost the ACT more than $30 million
  • The ACT Government offered Mr Eastman an ex gratia payment in return for waiving his compensation rights, but he refused
  • His lawyers say prison staff had taunted him and fellow inmates had attacked him

An ACT Supreme Court hearing today heard the 74-year-old former public servant is claiming at least $18 million in compensation for lost opportunities to have a family and career.

The case has already cost the ACT more than $30 million, though that could be substantially more if Mr Eastman’s compensation claim succeeds.

The ACT Government had offered Mr Eastman an ex gratia payment, but he refused it, instead launching a compensation bid claiming breaches of the ACT’s Human Rights Act.

ACT Solicitor-General Peter Garrisson conceded that Mr Eastman’s 1995 conviction was wrongful, but said he had not been detained unlawfully under the existing laws.

The court heard that was partly because the outcome was subject to appeal.

“There was simply no unlawful detention,” Mr Garrisson said.

“The plaintiff was detained by order of a superior court.”

Mr Garrisson added that, even if the court accepted Mr Eastman’s argument, his claim would be limited by the fact that the Human Rights Act did not commence until 2004.

“The plaintiff has not demonstrated in any way how the Human Rights Act applies in retrospect,” he said.

Violence, vilification and taunting

On Tuesday, Mr Eastman described to the court his “bittersweet” release from prison, speaking publicly for the first time since his conviction was overturned.

“I’ve lost the ability to pursue any dreams,” he said.

“The loss of opportunity to get married and have children, which was a dream, the loss of opportunity to pursue a career.”

Mr Eastman also lost three family members while he was imprisoned, and his lawyers said today he was moved from jail to jail about 90 times over his two decades in jail.

The court heard Mr Eastman suffered vilification in the press, taunting by prison staff and random acts of violence by other prisoners.

Compo case the latest in decades of legal stoushes

Mr Eastman spent 19 years in jail for the murder of Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner Colin Winchester, who was then the ACT’s chief police officer.

Mr Winchester was shot dead as he got out of his car in a driveway in suburban Canberra in 1989.

In the ensuing years, there was a lengthy series of legal actions, including numerous appeals, two major inquiries, High Court challenges and two trials.

In 2014, a retrial was ordered after forensic evidence relied on to convict Mr Eastman was discredited as deeply flawed and an inquiry found there had been a miscarriage of justice.

A jury ultimately found Mr Eastman not guilty of the murder in November last year.

The compensation case is expected to run into next week.








First posted

October 03, 2019 14:57:24

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