What happens if I intentionally injure someone in order to protect myself and/or my family?

Case: Corowa v Winner & Anor [2019] QDC 135

Background

On the 14 September 2009 Brenton Winner deliberately drove his vehicle onto the footpath and over the right foot of Isaiah Corowa in order to protect his fiancée and grandmother from being physically and verbally attacked. Corowa was taken to hospital and suffered four separate injuries to his right foot. The plaintiff sought compensation from the insurer for the injuries suffered. 

Brenton Winner passed away prior to the court hearing. 

Differing stories from witnesses

During the court hearing, six people, including Corowa, gave their recollection of the events from the 14th September.  As Brenton had passed away, his statement from 2009 was used as his recollection. Among these seven accounts, there were several discrepancies and contradicting recollections put forward. 

Ultimately, the judge decided not to accept the recollection of events put forward by Corowa or his two friends who were with him on the 14th. Several factors led to this decision, including Corowa’s statement in 2009 and statement in court not matching, his significant history of drugs and his prior criminal history for dishonesty and violence. 

Recollections given by Winner’s fiancée (Erin) and grandmother (Joy) were accepted as the most accurate tale of events. Whilst these statements also had differences, Erin and Joy no longer had an interest in protecting Brenton, as he was now deceased, and any differences in stories could be linked with the trauma of the day and the lapse of time (10 years). Erin and Joys stories were also consistent with Petria Jenkins (neighbour) who was viewed as an independent witness. 

What happened on the 14th September 2009?

The version of events which was accepted was that Brenton backed out of his driveway when Corowa and his two friends (Lama Fred and Scott McPherson) were walking down from Fred’s house on 4 Blackwood Street. Brenton either nearly hit them by accident or came near enough to them that they felt he was close to hitting them. Isaiah, Scott and Lama became angry and hit the car and abused Brenton, who in turn abused them back. 

Later that day Brenton drove past some shops where the three men were and they threw an object, likely to be a bottle, at the car and damaged Brentons vehicle. 

Later that day the men returned to Brentons home on Blackwood St. At that stage Joy was putting the bins out on the footpath with the assistance of Erin. They noticed the men arriving from the back of the house and two of the men pulled palings from the fence to be used as weapons. Isaiah was in possession of a replica pistol. Isaiah advanced on Joy and hit the window of the car Joy had managed to get inside once with this gun. Brenton approached the three in his car and Lama and Scott retreated from the attack but Isaiah did not. Both Erin and Joy were in fear of their lives. Brenton was aware that Isaiah had a weapon, although he thought it was an axe and acted to defend his fiancée and his grandmother from the attack by driving his car at Isaiah and ultimately running over his foot. 

Were Brenton’s actions justified?

There is no doubt that Isaiah was assaulted by Brenton when he drove his vehicle at him. The question is whether that assault was justified. Brentons action must be viewed as reasonable to protect himself, his fiancée or his grandmother from the attack.

It was found that whilst Brenton was in charge of a significant weapon, a motor vehicle, and his actions were likely to cause harm, he was facing three armed men and it could not be expected for him to leave nor was it practical for him to exit the car and try and fight these men by himself.

Decision

The judge found that Brentons actions were reasonably necessary to protect his fiancée and his grandmother and accordingly, the defence of self-defence had been established.

Isaiah’s claim was dismissed and he was ordered to pay Alliance Australia’s costs. 

 

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