Posted on 06 Sep 2017
The Supreme Court of Victoria has today approved a $70 million settlement of the landmark Manus Island detainee class action run by Slater and Gordon Lawyers.
The action is believed to be the largest human rights class action settlement in Australian legal history and was brought on behalf of 1,923 detainees who were held at the Manus Island Detention Centre between 21 November 2012 and 12 May 2016.
The parties announced a settlement on 14 June 2017, which was today approved by the Court after it concluded that the agreement was objectively fair, reasonable, and in the interests of the group as a whole.
Slater and Gordon's Practice Group Leader, Rory Walsh, welcomed today’s ruling.
“These detainees came to Australia seeking refuge, compassion and protection, which were all denied to them by successive Commonwealth governments,” Mr Walsh said.
“Today, the group has finally been delivered justice through the Australian legal system and the Supreme Court of Victoria.
"This was an extremely complex and hard-fought piece of litigation.
"The result that has been achieved in this case – against significant odds – will allow meaningful compensation to be paid to group members much more quickly than would otherwise have been the case
“It is an outcome that we believe is clearly in the group’s interests, which is a sentiment that was reflected in Justice Macaulay’s decision and reasons today.
“We are very pleased that the Court has approved the settlement of the proceeding in the terms that it has today, which will allow us to continue work preparing to finalise all individual compensation assessments and have the money distributed to group members over the coming months.”
Mr Walsh said 72 per cent of the group has registered to participate in the settlement so far, with registrations to remain open until 13 October 2017.
“The Court today approved an extension to the deadline for registrations, which will allow group members an extra two and a half weeks,” Mr Walsh said.
“Compared to other class actions, the level of engagement and participation has been extraordinary, despite the communication difficulties involved with such a geographically dispersed group.
“So far, 1,383 detainees have signed up and we expect many more will in the coming weeks. We would encourage anyone who wants to register to get in touch with us.
“The Court also approved applications from 56 detainees (3 per cent of the group) today, to allow them additional time opt-out of the proceeding and preserve their legal rights, if they wish to do so.”
Mr Walsh said the role played by the lead plaintiff in the case, Majid Kamasaee, deserved particular recognition.
“It takes a hell of a lot to put your hand up and put your case before the world, and Majid did his group proud,” Mr Walsh said.
“The interests of the group members were clearly central to all of the instructions he gave us throughout the case, and without him, this proceeding simply would not have been possible.”
The settlement distribution scheme will remain subject to the supervision of the Supreme Court and there will be a further hearing scheduled in October in order to provide an update to the Court on the registration process, and to seek the Court’s approval for payments to start being made.
Individual settlements can be distributed once approved by the Court, following the expiration of the 28 day appeal period and the completion of all reviews of the compensation assessments provided to group members to date. This will be conducted while this appeal period is running, to allow funds to be distributed as quickly as possible thereafter.
All parties are working towards the commencement of the distribution process ahead of the closure of the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre in October 2017.
People who were held at the Manus Island Detention Centre and would like to register or receive more information about the class action can contact Slater and Gordon at email@example.com or via WhatsApp on +61 466 536 240. The deadline for registrations was today extended until 13 October 2017.
FAQ: Manus Island Class Action Settlement
- When did the class action begin? The class action was commenced by Slater and Gordon in December 2014.
- When was the class action settled? A $70 million proposed settlement was reached on 14 June 2017. It is believed to be the largest human rights class action settlement in Australian legal history.
- How many group members have registered for the settlement? 1,383 group members have already registered to participate in the class action settlement. This is approximately 70 per cent of the total group of 1,923. Registrations will remain open until 13 October 2017.
- How many group members have raised objections? 148 group members lodged objections by the 21 August 2017 deadline. This is approximately 8 per cent of the total group of 1,923. 127 of the 148 who lodged objections have also registered to participate in the settlement.
- How many group members have opted out? The Court has approved applications from 56 group members (less than 3 per cent of the total group) for extensions of time to opt out of the class action and preserve their legal rights.
- Who is the lead plaintiff? The lead plaintiff is Iranian-born Majid Kamasaee (pronunciation: MA-jid KAM-ah-SAY) who was detained at the Manus Island Centre in 2013 and 2014.
- Who are the group members? The case is being run on behalf of 1,923 detainees who were held at the Manus Island Detention Centre between November 2012 and 12 May 2016. That period included the February 2014 attack on the Centre in which one detainee was killed and dozens were seriously injured.
- Who are the defendants? The defendants to the proceeding were the Commonwealth of Australia and its contracted service providers G4S and Broadspectrum (formerly known as Transfield). The security provider Wilson Security was separately joined as a third party to the proceedings by G4S and Broadspectrum.
- What are the claims? There were two primary allegations in this class action. The first claim was that detainees suffered serious physical and psychological injuries as a result of the conditions in which they were held at the Manus Island Detention Centre. The second claim for false imprisonment was added to the action in 2016 following a ruling by the PNG Supreme Court that the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island was unlawful and in breach of PNG’s constitution.
The lead plaintiff alleges the Commonwealth was in effective control of the Manus Island Detention Centre at all relevant times, and thereby owed a duty of care to the detainees being held there. Similarly, he alleges the false imprisonment of the detainees was done by the Commonwealth and its service providers.