A man from Monbulk in Melbourne's east has been awarded nearly $130,000 in damages after a police officer punched him in the face at a police station five years ago.

Tim Vivoda, a 42-year-old bonsai gardener, launched a civil case in Victoria's County Court after he was hit by Leading Senior Constable David Kealy.

Judge Chris O'Neill rejected the policeman's claim that he had acted in self defence after fearing Mr Vivoda was lunging at his gun holster.

The judge said the punch was "out of proportion" to any threat and was a breach of the trust the public places in Victoria Police.

Mr Vivoda said he was pleased his quest for justice was over, describing it as a "long journey".

"It's a good thing in that at least it shows the layman... that you can get justice, that you don't have to plead guilty to something you haven't done," he said.

"It never was (about) the money. It was more the fact I wanted to prove my innocence and the fact it's all about justice."

His lawyer, Andrew Dimsey, said CCTV footage of the incident proved crucial to the case.

"(It) was critical, because no matter what was said in court, the video didn't lie and we were able to establish that Tim was assaulted and not only that, that they added insult to injury by charging him with assault," Mr Dimsey said.

"The police are a pillar of our community, their job is a tough one.

"But with their role comes some responsibilities, and they have to treat people with respect and dignity and it was demonstrated that that just didn't occur."


Judge O'Neill accepted that apart from Mr Vivoda's physical injuries as a result of the punch, he had also suffered significant psychological trauma, including panic attacks, depression, difficulty going to sleep and recurrent nightmares relating to police officers.

The judge found Mr Vivoda was arrested by police for being drunk and was punched as he attempted to escape from officers at the Ringwood Police Station.

Leading Senior Constable Kealy told the court he had reacted immediately after fearing Mr Vivoda was lunging for his gun holster, even though he had earlier checked in his weapon at the station.

But Judge O'Neill said there were other steps Leading Senior Constable Kealy could have taken, including pushing Mr Vivoda to the ground or grabbing him by the arms.

"Instead, he determined to punch Mr Vivoda hard to the face," he said.

"That action had the capacity to cause significant injury and, in the circumstances with which he was presented, was not a reasonable response.

"(It) was out of proportion to the threat which he faced."

Malicious prosecution

The judge also agreed that Mr Vivoda had been the subject of a malicious prosecution when he was charged with assault over the incident.

He awarded Mr Vivoda nearly $90,000 in general damages, for medical expenses and economic loss.

An additional $20,000 was set for the malicious prosecution and $20,000 in aggravated damages.

The State of Victoria accepted that it would be liable to pay damages if Leading Senior Constable Kealy's defence of self defence was not proven.

Victoria Police would not comment on whether it will appeal against the decision, saying it will take time to consider the ruling.

It says the matter is also subject to an ongoing police professional standards investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further.

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