A champion kickboxer who suffered brain damage after a convicted murderer bashed him with a sandwich press hidden inside a pillowcase at a Sydney jail has won his negligence case against the state of NSW.
Adam Watt was a remand prisoner when he was seriously injured at Silverwater jail in the October 2009 attack by Django O’Hara, who had a history of violence against other prisoners.
In the NSW Supreme Court on Friday, Justice Peter Garling found the state breached its duty of care to Mr Watt and he was entitled to damages with the amount yet to be calculated.
The assault occurred in the common area of Pod 12 within the Metropolitan Reception and Remand Centre and was captured on CCTV.
Mr Watt was sitting at a table when O’Hara approached him from behind holding the pillowcase with the metal sandwich press concealed inside, the judge found.
“He then swung the pillowcase and hit the plaintiff over the head, knocking him to the floor in an apparently unconscious state.”
After hitting him again over the head as he lay on the floor, O’Hara was only prevented from striking him a third time by the intervention of another inmate, who lifted a chair and pointed it in his direction in the “manner of a lion tamer”.
Mr Watt’s history included coming second at a World Karate Championships, winning four World Kickboxing titles, running a gym and commentating on contests for Sky Channel and Fox Sports.
He was on remand over a plot to import 210 kilograms of pseudoephedrine and for aiding and abetting its supply, but in 2012 was found unfit to stand trial.
O’Hara, who was serving time for murdering a security guard, was “notorious amongst corrections staff for being a violent, aggressive and unpredictable inmate”, the judge said.
“Victims of his assaults in custody sustained physical injuries including burn injuries and extensive facial injuries requiring medical treatment.”
His threats of violence and his attacks – some without a weapon and others using a shiv, a metal bar and an electrical cord – were “not at all infrequent or rare”.
The judge found the state breached its duty by placing O’Hara in the Pod when there was no plan to address the safety of other inmates and not providing Pod officers with details of his history.
Secondly, two Pod officers failed to observe and then remove the pillowcase containing a weighted item being carried by O’Hara, or when it was placed on the floor around the time of the confrontation.
The ultimate award will include $71,500 for permanent impairment, $30,000 for pain and suffering, about $60,000 for past and future out of pocket expenses, and economic loss of $735 a week.