It all started with the following innocuous facts….

It was Mardi Gras night (2 March) 2013 at around 11:30pm. The parade had finished, the floats had long passed. Apart from a street sweeper and a garbage truck there were no other vehicles on Oxford Street. However, the pedestrian barricades were still in place and there were still partygoers walking on the sidewalk and on the side of the road behind a number of uniformed police.

It was at this point that Mr Hutchinson, his partner, his sister and another friend decided to cross Oxford Street at the intersection with Crown Street. What happened next?  Well, Leeming JA says that: “He came into contact with police when attempting to do so. What precisely occurred in that three minute period was the subject of conflicting testimonial and CCTV evidence, and much of the substance of this appeal challenged the findings made at trial. Mr Hutchinson was arrested and charged with assaulting an officer in the execution of duty, contrary to Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), s 58. He was served with a Court Attendance Notice at 12.05am, and released”.

The criminal charges were dismissed by a Magistrate in November 2013 after a hearing which “occupied part or all of 4 days“.

Mr Hutchinson clearly reflected on why he didn’t listen when the police told him he couldn’t cross over the next 3 years. He commenced civil proceedings against the State of NSW on the last day of the limitation period in March 2016. He alleged that he had been: (a) battered by the police who prevented him crossing the street; (b) further assaulted because the handcuffs applied to him were too tight, amounting to an unreasonable use of force; and (c) falsely imprisoned for 35 minutes until he was released. Just for good measure he later claimed he was a victim of a malicious prosecution.

He was unsuccessful in his claims after an 8 day hearing in the District Court. He also didn’t fare any better in the Court of Appeal and his application for special leave was denied. Apart from being a lesson in how to ruin a night out and how to rack up astounding costs (including those of the State), the C of A judgment (Hutchinson v NSW [2019] NSWCA 91) is quite interesting if you want to know about police powers to control traffic and pedestrians. I now look differently at the uniformed officers who stand on the tram tracks (behind the orange flag “barrier”) outside Wynyard Station in the morning.

Creative commons acknowledgment for the photograph.

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