Australia

Indigenous police brutality victim awarded $400,000

Eathan Cruse leaves the Victorian Supreme Court in Melbourne. Source: AAP

Eathan Cruse was 19 when police officers tied his hands behind his back, slammed him into a fridge and beat him during an April 2015 counter-terror raid.

An Aboriginal man who was brutally bashed by police during a counter-terrorism raid in Melbourne has been awarded $400,000.

Mr Cruse was just 19-years-old when he was arrested on suspicion of involvement with a plot to behead a police officer on Anzac Day 2015, but was never charged.

The arrest was unlawful and a "cowardly and brutal attack", Supreme Court Justice Melinda Richards ruled on Tuesday.

Eathan Cruse (centre) leaves the Victorian Supreme Court in Melbourne.
Eathan Cruse (centre) leaves the Victorian Supreme Court in Melbourne.
AAP

While Mr Cruse was lying on the kitchen floor when an officer grabbed his hair and told him "there's more to come" or "there's more where that came from".

As he was taken out of the home, one of the policeman said "don't say a f***ing word", the court was told.

Police officers also should have given "careful consideration" to taking Mr Cruse into custody knowing he was of Aboriginal descent, the justice said.

She found there were no reasonable grounds for officers to suspect him of terror offences or that he committed any offence.

Eathan Cruse leaves the Victorian Supreme Court
Eathan Cruse has been awarded $400,000 for his unlawful arrest during a terror raid. (AAP)

Mr Cruse was left with physical injuries including a concussion, a cut in front of his left ear and bruising on his face, neck and upper body and has untreated major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder with paranoid ideation.

"I'm just glad it's over," Mr Cruse, who is now 23, said outside court. "I just feel vindicated."

Police had argued Mr Cruse was not handcuffed while he was being struck and the action was a reasonable attempt to subdue him.

While the justice found Mr Cruse was a truthful witness, Justice Richards did not find some of the police officers' evidence credible.

She awarded him $400,000 in damages including $200,000 for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment and $20,000 for further medical treatment.

"I do not consider that amount ($400,000) is sufficient to bring home to the State of Victoria and Victoria Police the enormity of the abuse of power that occurred here," she said.

Aggravated damages of $80,000 and exemplary damages of $100,000 were also awarded.

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service helped Mr Cruse when he complained to Victoria Police about the allegations and police misconduct, but the force found the claims were unsubstantiated.

"Today, a Supreme Court judge has effectively overturned that decision and referred the conduct to IBAC," Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service chief executive Nerita Waight said.

Eathan Cruse.
Eathan Cruse.
AAP

Mr Cruse came to the attention of security agency ASIO because of his friendships with terrorist Numan Haider and IS fighter Irfaan Hussein.

Haider was fatally shot by police after he stabbed two officers at Endeavour Hills in 2014, Hussein was killed in 2015 while fighting in Syria and his friend Sevdet Besim was later imprisoned over a foiled beheading plot.

Police Minister Lisa Neville said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case as it may be subject to an appeal.

"There are well established oversight and complaint mechanisms available where there are concerns over police action and they are available to all members of the public," she said in a statement.

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