Sydney Law Professor Successfully Sues NSW Police

Sues NSW Police For Assault


For this matter, our client, our client, Simon Rice, was a Professor of Law working for the University of Sydney. At the time of his arrest, he was on the sidelines of a student protest when the police unlawfully arrested him. This article explores how he sues NSW Police and wins.  

University Law Professor’s Battle Against NSW Police

Simon is passionate about human rights. He is the University of Sydney’s Chair of Law and Social Justice.

On the 14th of October, 2020, students held a protest at the University of Sydney. The protest was against tertiary education policy. At around midday – teachers, union officials, and students began to assemble. Shortly after, Simon watched the protest close by.

At 1 p.m., around 200 protesters had assembled on Eastern Avenue in the University. Simon stayed just behind the crowd. After, the group left the University grounds and headed through Victoria Park before circling back to the university. He watched the crowd from a slight distance.

Sydney Police at Protest

Simon was peacefully observing the protest with some of his students. They were working on a project about protest law reform. From there, he decided to leave and make his way back to his office at the University. While strolling back, he noticed three police officers confront a woman. She was holding a megaphone to use in the protest. Simon witnessed the police trying to pull the megaphone from her. The officers were also attempting to take hold of the woman. 

As a result, he confronted the police. He asked them why they were doing that. In response, a police officer informed him that he could ask questions later. In addition, they instructed him to get off the road. He listened to the police and stepped onto the sidewalk. Again, he asked the police why they did that to the woman.

A police officer told him to get off the road. Simon replied that he was not on the road. He asked the police officers if they were arresting him. They said yes they were. 

NSW Police respond to protest with unnecessary force

Suddenly, two police officers grabbed him from behind. They gripped his upper arms and marched him towards the Veterinary school gates. One of the police officers kicked his legs out from underneath him. As a result, he fell to the ground.  At the same time, a male police officer told him that he was resisting arrest. He tried to get off the ground but they pushed him back. He had no choice but to remain sitting on the ground. 


Student newspaper, Honi Soit, posted a video on social media of the incident. It showed the police forcing Simon to the ground and him trying to get back on his feet.  


An officer told him that he was in breach of a public health order for attending a protest during the COVID-19 pandemic. This order was part 5 of the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gatherings and  Movement). This order related to being in a gathering of over 20 persons for the common purpose of conducting a protest. 


However, he denied that he knew of said common purpose. In addition, he also said he didn’t share that common purpose with anyone at the protest. They asked him for his ID. He complied and they told him he was now under arrest. He asked what the charge was. 


However, they then said he was not under arrest but would receive a $1,000 fine. They told him to leave immediately, and he returned to his office. 

Fine for Protest at Sydney University

On the 14th of October 2020, he received an infringement notice. He decided to contest the notice in court. In mid-April, Downing Centre Local Court heard the case. Simon pleaded Not Guilty. Subsequently, the court dismissed the proceedings in late May. However, he decided to sue the NSW police for assault, battery, and false imprisonment.

False Imprisonment by NSW Police

According to the law, he was falsely imprisoned. He suffered a total restraint of liberty for the 10 minutes the police held him. Our lawyer found that the police had no lawful reason to detain him.

Our lawyer believed that there was no way the police could have been satisfied that they had reason to restrain him according to Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW). Furthermore, the police who arrested Simon breached their duties. At the time, the police did not inform our client of their name and/or places of duty. In addition, the officers didn’t give him a sufficient warning before arresting him.

Assaulted by NSW Police

The police assaulted Simon due to the stopping, detaining and unlawful arrest. Our client suffered unnecessary stress, he feared more unwanted physical contact was coming. It was also found that the police used more than reasonable force when they grabbed him. For example, the kicking of his legs to force him to fall to the ground. The client also suffered pain, discomfort, mental distress, and anguish. Our lawyer explained that Simon also felt a loss of dignity, fear, and humiliation. As a result, this experience was very distressing for our client. He claimed aggravated damages for the false imprisonment, assault, and battery. All in all, the police’s actions were high-handed, unwarranted, excessive, and showed disregard for his rights.

Simon Rice sues NSW police for assault

Simon Rice spoke to The Sunday Morning Herald. He said:

“I successfully sued the NSW Police for assault and battery, and for false imprisonment.” Adding;

That is conduct that police must avoid, and many do. Police have a challenging job, but that is not licence to assault and falsely imprison, as some do.”

Claiming against NSW Police for Assault

We got a successful outcome for our client after he sues NSW Police. He was fairly compensated. In conclusion, the acts of the police officers were intentional acts done with the aim of causing injury to Simon. Check out our other successful cases for suing the police.

NSW Police Assault - what is going wrong?

Simon explained to the press that there is a “large gap in police accountability in NSW.” For example, the NSW Ombudsman does not monitor police conduct. Further, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission only investigates serious or systemic misconduct.

He stated the issue with this. “For complaints of ‘ordinary’ misconduct, you can complain to the NSW Police, who investigate themselves,” he said. The police investigating complaints made against them may not result in the best outcome for the public.

Simon took a risk in suing the police, but one that he was willing to take. He explained:

The only way to make the NSW Police stop and think about how they overstepped the mark is to sue them. That is a slow, costly and risky path … and not one that most people who encounter the NSW Police can undertake.

“I felt obliged to run the risk of suing the NSW Police because I am better able to take that risk than are most victims, and everything that can be done should be done to limit the excessive use of force by the police.”


In summary, he stated:

Peaceful protest demands respectful policing.”


A spokesperson for NSW Police said they were unable to comment on the matter.

Suing the Police

Were you unlawfully assaulted or arrested by the police? If so, please get in touch. Our experienced lawyers have won countless cases for clients suing the police.

If you believe you have a civil claim against the state, you may be able to sue. Contact O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors on (02) 9261 4281. We can set up a free appointment with the civil lawyers in our Sydney office. 


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

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