A financial planner has sued the New South Wales Police Department for failing to serve his appeal papers after he delivered them for that purpose to the local police establishment.

His earlier appeal from the original Magistrates Court shoplifting conviction to the District Court was successful to the extent a $1k fine was replaced with a good behaviour bond.

Not understanding that the Director of Public Prosecutions is unconnected to police, James Vondar walked up to the counter at Parramatta Police Centre with a sealed envelope addressed to DPP, requesting the material be given to them.

The otherwise occupied duty officer said initially “okay” and after a few seconds added, “But I am not going to give it to them.”

Vondar left the envelope on the counter and walked out with “It’s your problem now” as his departing remarks.

When the appeal was heard a few days later, the District Court declined to allow him to rely on the documents and his appeal failed.

Vondar then launched a lawsuit for damages against the state of New South Wales in its Supreme Court.

The denial of an opportunity to overturn the guilty verdict had – he claimed – prevented him from continuing to work as a financial planner and to eventually be admitted as a legal practitioner.

Despite the somewhat farcical circumstances being considered, the court was required to review leading authorities of the law of negligence quoting the seminal rulings in Donoghue v Stevenson itself.

In a decision published in July, Justice Stephen Rothman ruled there was no duty on the part of the police to deliver the documents.

“Okay” was not an agreement to comply with Vondar’s request, rather merely an acknowledgment of what had been said. Had there been a specific agreement so to do, the position may have been different.

Had there even been a breach of duty on the part of the police, it was not causative of the harm claimed to have resulted. Vondar had the opportunity to seek explain the documents had been delivered to police and perhaps with an extension of time would have been permitted by the District Court to rely on them. He had not done so.

“For all the above reasons, the plaintiff has failed to establish a cause of action or damage resulting from the impugned conduct of the police,” his honour ruled.

James Michael Vondar v The State of New South Wales   [2014] NSWSC 876, Rothman J, 01/07/2014


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