The man who sustained dreadful injuries during a botched police raid of an LGBTQI bookshop has received a confidential settlement, despite Victoria’s anti-corruption taskforce clearing officers of using excessive force.
Nik Dimopoulos was mistakenly arrested by police in May 2019, during a disturbing ordeal at the Hares & Hyenas bookstore in Fitzroy that resulted in his shoulder being “ripped from its socket”.
Mr Dimopoulos was sleeping in an apartment above the bookshop when members of the force’s Critical Incident Response Team stormed the building in their search for a suspect involved in a carjacking and home invasion.
In June 2020, Mr Dimopoulos launched civil action against the state government accusing the police officers of false imprisonment, assault, and battery, and failing to “exercise reasonable care”.
Court documents revealed that Mr Dimopoulos would lose more than $1.1 million in past and future earnings because of his serious injuries. He also claimed an additional $1.8 million in special damages.
The case was to proceed to a Supreme Court trial next month, but the matter was resolved when a financial offer was agreed to by Mr Dimopoulos and his lawyers.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman confirmed the protracted legal case had been finalised.
“Victoria Police has reached a confidential settlement with a person following an incident in Fitzroy on 11 May 2019. The confidentiality provisions in the settlement terms are binding on all parties involved,” the police spokeswoman said.
In April 2020, the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission’s found the use of force was proportionate, although Dimopoulos’ human rights had been infringed.
IBAC commissioner Robert Redlich said officers of the Critical Incident Response Team had “reasonable grounds” at the time to raid the property, despite it ultimately being the wrong location.
“The police involved reasonably believed such force was necessary to arrest a person who was struggling with police,” Redlich said in April 2020.
Mr Dimopoulos criticized the findings of the IBAC report and has maintained that police did not identify themselves when they entered the building while he was sleeping. He said he fled because he feared he would be the victim of a gay bashing or home invasion.
The raid sparked deep unease and anger in the LGBTQI community.
In a bid to reassure the public, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius issued a public apology on behalf of the force after the incident.
Victoria Police also took the unusual step of paying for Mr Dimopoulos’ medical expenses.
The decision to apologise ahead of a formal investigation into the incident caused a row between rank-and-file officers and Victoria Police command.
Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt took a swipe at Mr Cornelius following the IBAC report that cleared officers involved in the botched raid.
Mr Gatt said the IBAC’s findings were “an important outcome for our members involved and some sober reading for those who judged them prematurely, who apologised on their behalf prematurely, for those opportunists who chose to drive an agenda because it was convenient.”
The rare admission of fault from Mr Cornelius came amid other controversial use-of-force incidents and scandals – involving the Critical Incident Response Unit – where police have stridently defended their conduct or refused to comment ahead of the completion of internal or independent investigations.