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Riddle v Coffey[2002] QCA 22



Appeal No 265 of 2002

JOHN ALAN RIDDLERespondent (Applicant)


JOHN LAWRENCE COFFEYAppellant (Respondent)


DATE 06/02/2002


HIS HONOUR:  This is an application to stay a judgment pending appeal.  The judgment in issue awarded $70,200 criminal compensation against the applicant (Mr Coffey) in favour of the respondent (Mr Riddle).  Having read the material I must say that at first glance the judgment looks high.  It is very close to the maximum amount that may be awarded despite an apportionment that was allowed for the respondent's contribution to the incident.  Further, the injuries, whilst serious, are not of the kind or extent that necessarily suggest that a maximum award is appropriate.  These, however, are only broad general observations. 

So far as the viability of the appeal is concerned I am satisfied that there are matters capable of succeeding, although I express no opinion as to whether or not they will do so.  I am also satisfied that if full payment were now made, and part of it is later found to be unnecessary, the applicant would have little chance of recovering it from the respondent.

The task at hand is to identify the level at which it may safely be thought that the respondent will hold the compensation.  There is no doubt that he is entitled to some compensation. 

The more arguable of the applicant's grounds, in my view, include the suggestion that there has been some overlapping of items of compensation.  In particular, I note that items 9, 25 and 28 may be thought to have encompassed the same injury or injuries and that the cumulative award of such amounts may be contrary to section 26 subsection (1) of the Compensation of Victims Act.

It also may be arguable if the discretion has miscarried that the percentages awarded under some of the items were on the generous side.  In other words, it is possible that some arguments on quantum may find favour. 

So far as the apportionment is concerned, whilst apportionments are difficult to disturb it is by no means unarguable that 10 per cent is too low an apportionment on the facts that have been found. 

There is one further point as to which I have some difficulty.  It is submitted on behalf of the applicant that during the sentencing procedure the applicant's plea to grievous bodily harm was clearly confined to what was described as the head injury.  The head injury would seem to be the result of three blows to the head with a cane knife and there is some difficulty in separating these three blows.  There were, however, multiple other injuries to other parts of the body which were delivered in the course of the same confrontation between the two men.

The submission on behalf of the applicant is that the sentence ought to have been confined to the harm caused to the head and that in turn the compensation ought to be limited to such injury.  Had the sentencing Judge confined herself to the head injury rather than the composite injuries as the basis of the sentence, then I should think that consistently with Facer versus Bennett the applicant should get the benefit of consistency of factual basis between sentence and compensation.  However, her Honour does not seem to have confined herself to that limited basis in imposing the actual sentence and in making her sentencing remarks.

In this state of play I have considerable reservations about the validity of the applicant's submission that compensation should have been confined to the head injury and its consequences.  However there is certainly something that needs to be examined by the Court and I certainly cannot say that this point could not in the end succeed. 

The applicant is not well off.  He has a home but it is mortgaged and his equity is certainly less - well, appears to be less than the amount that has been awarded.  However, if a lesser amount is ultimately upheld, then he may be able to cope with paying it and avoid bankruptcy.

Having regard to all these matters, it seems to me that I should grant a stay of the judgment in respect of any amount exceeding $25,000.  I may say that my original thinking was that $30,000 was the reasonable minimum figure with which the respondent might end up, but having regard to the last point that was raised in argument, I have slightly reduced that figure.

The order will therefore be the judgment under appeal is stayed in respect of any sum exceeding $25,000. 

I think that the costs of today's proceedings should either be the costs of each party in the appeal, or if you'd prefer I will reserve them to the Appeal Court.  Any submissions?

MR BURNETT:  Your Honour, I'd submit it would be appropriate to really reserve it to the Appeal Court because ultimately if the appeal - it's probably a matter best determined once the Court assesses the‑‑‑‑‑

HIS HONOUR:  Yes, because if we get an intermediate figure there may be a fresh discretion to exercise.  That sounds right.

The costs of today's application will be reserved to the Court of Appeal.


Editorial Notes

  • Published Case Name:

    Riddle v Coffey

  • Shortened Case Name:

    Riddle v Coffey

  • MNC:

    [2002] QCA 22

  • Court:


  • Judge(s):

    Thomas JA

  • Date:

    06 Feb 2002

Litigation History

EventCitation or FileDateNotes
Primary Judgment[2001] QDC 36614 Dec 2001Application for criminal compensation; respondent to pay applicant the sum of $70,209 by way of compensation: Bradley DCJ.
QCA Interlocutory Judgment[2002] QCA 2206 Feb 2002Application for stay of judgment [2001] QDC 366 pending appeal; stay granted: Thomas JA.
Appeal Determined (QCA)[2002] QCA 33706 Sep 2002Appeal against quantum of criminal compensation awarded [2001] QDC 366; appeal allowed; set aside order of 14 December 2001 and instead order respondent pay the applicant the sum of $51,975: McMurdo P, Jerrard JA, Holmes J.

Appeal Status

Appeal Determined (QCA)

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