NSW Police spent $24 million on legal settlements in one year

NSW Police officer

New South Wales Police spent $24 million of taxpayer money on almost 300 civil claims against officers during the 2019/20 financial year.

Police are being sued at least once every working day for serious misconduct including battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution,” stated Greens MP David Shoebridge.

The claims included settlements for serious misconduct including battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

This data has been notoriously hard to access as most of the out of court settlements with government departments have gag orders. It’s the reason why we are unable to disclose the amount our clients received in these types of settlements in our case studies.

The lack of transparency surrounding civil cases creates misinformation in the community about the regularity of such claims.

David Shoebridge has been attempting to force police to release the figures for years. These figures are the first real insight into the cost of police misconduct in NSW.

“This is money that should be used to support and protect communities, rather than deliver secret payouts,” Mr Shoebridge told The Guardian.

Principal Solicitor Peter O’Brien states that while the figure is no shock, it’s an important exercise in accountability. 

“I’m not surprised to see that $24 million has been spent in the last financial year. Every day we see new claims of police misconduct with no end in sight,” he said.

“There needs to be more transparency in civil claims against the Police so that the public can recognise what’s going on behind closed doors.”

A “SYSTEMATIC FAILURE” of police in misconduct civil claims

Earlier this year, former commissioner of the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission Patrick Saidi had sought an investigation into the “systematic failure” of police to address the number of civil cases filed for misconduct.

Saidi was concerned that no feedback was given to officers subject to legal complaints as to the legality of their actions. In turn, officers wouldn’t be reprimanded or even have the opportunity to change the behaviour of their own accord.

“Up till now, commanders who have had police officers under their command have not been advised of the fact that damages or compensation monies have been paid as a result of the misconduct or unlawful actions of police officers under their command,” Saidi wrote in documents published as part of The Guardian Australia’s investigation.

“When NSW Police makes no effort to prevent police misconduct, the amount of money spent on settlements will only increase as the culture becomes more and more toxic,” stated Peter O’Brien.

“It’s hard to sue the police especially because of the resources and power of the organisation, the fact that over 300 cases are brought each year shows us just the tip of the iceberg of likely possible cases,” stated Mr Shoebridge.

“This is also a message to people out there who have been the victim of bad police behaviour, chat with a lawyer because you may have a legal remedy available to you.”

The full cost of the civil claims could be demonstrably higher, as the $24M only entails payouts to victims. Legal costs, court costs and administration costs would put this number significantly higher. Unfortunately, the full cost is held in data by other departments.


If you have been affected by police misconduct, contact O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors. We are experts in suits against the Police and offer free initial consultations. Contact us now on 02 9261 4281 or

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O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors
p: 02 9261 4281
a: Level 4, 219-223 Castlereagh St,
Sydney NSW 2000

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