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School CP - March 2003

AAP General News (Australia), 27 March 2003

NSW: Man awarded $1.2 million for strapping as schoolboy

By Kylie Williams

SYDNEY, March 27 AAP - A Sydney man who was strapped as a schoolboy today had his damages payout halved to $1.2 million by a NSW Supreme Court jury.

The jury of four deliberated for almost two days to make the award to Paul Hogan for injuries to his right hand from a strapping he received as a 13-year- old student at St John's College, Lakemba, in March 1984.

Mr Hogan, 32, sued the Catholic Church and the school's discipline master, Denis Fricot, for assault and battery and negligence.

He claimed his right hand was permanently damaged by the strapping, leaving him with pain, pins and needles, swelling, sweating and headaches, and restricting his ability to do certain tasks.

Mr Hogan, who has a PhD in civil engineering, said the injury made it difficult to write and complete his university studies.

But the church today expressed disappointment at the new award, saying the punishment given to Mr Hogan was in line with codes of discipline at the time.

In February 2001, another jury awarded Mr Hogan more than $2.5 million, with a further $400,000 interest.

The church appealed, submitting that the general damages awarded were "beyond what could be regarded as appropriate in the circumstances of the case" .

Mr Hogan's counsel, Peter Semmler, QC, agreed at the time the amount was too high but asked that the Court of Appeal adjust the general damages component.

However, the Court of Appeal decided a new jury trial should take place because the amount awarded should depend on the assessment of Mr Hogan's credibility.

Outside the court today, Mr Hogan said he was relieved the case was over.

"I'm glad that we've got a result," he said.

Mr Semmler told reporters his client hoped the church and Mr Fricot would accept the amount awarded.

"I hope they accept the jury's decision," he said.

"We're very happy that for the second time in two years a jury representing the Australian community has awarded a substantial sum for a wrong that happened 19 years ago."

The church was disappointed with today's outcome, a spokeswoman said.

"The events that occurred in 1984 must be viewed in the context of the accepted disciplinary practices that existed in many boys' secondary schools - government, independent and Catholic - at that time," she said.

"Corporal punishment was generally accepted by schools and the wider community as one of the many means of ensuring appropriate behavioural standards then."

Lawyers from both sides will meet tomorrow to discuss the amount of interest and costs to be awarded.

Interest is expected to be around $175,000 taking the total award to about $1.4 million.

AAP klw/nf/ph/mo

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