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Family wins compensation from convicted killer

Paolo Tatti
Patrick Cronin Foundation

On 16 April 2016, Patrick Cronin attended a hotel with friends. A brawl broke out and Patrick intervened in an attempt to help a friend move away. He was punched from behind in an unprovoked attack by Andrew William Lee. Two days later, his family made the agonising decision to turn off his life support. 

Over three years later, on 1 August 2019, the Supreme Court of Victoria handed down its decision in an application made by Patrick’s family against Andrew William Lee, convicted of killing Patrick, to award compensation for pain and suffering to his parents and siblings.

In Victoria, victims of crime (including particularly in instances of murder and manslaughter, their families) are permitted to make an application under section 85B of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) for a person convicted of a crime to pay compensation. That compensation extends to pain and suffering, counselling and medical expenses. To apply, the victim must have suffered an injury which includes actual physical harm, mental illnesses or disorders, and grief, distress or trauma.

Applications of this nature are relatively rare, particularly in comparison to the number of victims who experience injuries (whether physical, or mental) at the hands of perpetrators of crimes. Whilst many victims may learn of their right to obtain assistance from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT), many do not of this additional avenue.

The applications are not to further punish an offender, but to award the payment of money to address the injury or loss sustained. This is so, even though as Justice Taylor said in her decision (at [101]):

The loss of Patrick Cronin to his parents and siblings cannot be adequately explained in words. They are simply insufficient to carry the weight of the sadness, hurt and anger felt by his family that his life was cut short through a criminal act.

In considering all of the evidence, the Court assessed that Lee pay the Cronin family, in aggregate $225,000 reduced by the award received by the family from VOCAT.

Following his death, the Cronin family established the Pat Cronin Foundation, established to honour his memory and to prevent coward punch attacks through awareness, education and research. To learn more or make a donation to this cause, please visit their website – https://www.patcroninfoundation.org.au

Paolo Tatti and Lucy Sheehan advised the Cronin family.

The full judgement is available at http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/vic/VSC/2019/509.html