Bashed cop awarded record compensation payout

Bashed policeman Matthew Butcher has been awarded a record $3.3 million ex-gratia payment by the West Australian government to cover injuries sustained during a vicious pub brawl two years ago.

Constable Butcher was left partially paralysed from severe head injuries after he was struck with a flying headbutt during the fight outside the Old Bailey Tavern in Perth's northern suburb of Joondalup in February 2008.

The shocking attack, which was captured on video by bystanders, was inflicted after Constable Butcher and several fellow officers were called in to quell a group of brawling family members outside the pub.
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Bashed police officer Matt Butcher pictured with his wife Katrina will receive a record payout from the State Government to cover injuries sustained while he was on the job.

Bashed police officer Matt Butcher pictured with his wife Katrina will receive a record payout from the State Government to cover injuries sustained while he was on the job.

Barry McLeod, 29, was later found not guilty over the attack on Constable Butcher, which happened while he was using a Taser stun-gun on Mr McLeod's father, Robert.

The blow left Constable Butcher unconscious. He was put into an induced coma to reduce swelling on his brain and spent several months in hospital undergoing a slow and painful rehabilitation.

Constable Butcher remains with WA Police in an administrative role and had lodged a claim with the WA Police Union for compensation. He also recently revealed he was expecting his first child with wife Katrina.

The original claim was for about $5 million and included more than $3 million for continuing medical treatment, about $1 million for loss of earnings and several hundred thousand dollars for trauma.

Constable Butcher today welcomed the payment, but didn't consider himself a rich man.

"I don't think so at all. I feel rich that I'm rich in that I'm still kicking, I'm still alive and still around to enjoy life but financially, Katrina and I won't change. We'll still be the same people," he said.

"I've always thought that if I won lotto, if I had a multi-million win in lotto, I'd be rejoicing, there'd be big parties, I'd go out and buy a brand new car, brand new boat and all the luxuries in life.

"But this money I have received, it's a strange feeling today because although it's a large amount it's not instant party time. This is money that we'll have to put away and use in future years."

He said the money would be invested to cover his future medical bills, but he would happily swap the multi-million dollar payment for the chance of a healthy life.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said he was unaware of any larger payment that had been awarded in the country.

The previous largest ex-gratia payment awarded in WA was $3.25 million, which was given to Andrew Mallard after he was wrongly jailed for 12 years the murder of Pamela Lawrence in 1994.

Constable Butcher's payment also surpasses the $3.2 million payment to the widow and four children of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward, whose name is not used for cultural reasons, who died in the back of a prison van in 2008.

Mr Porter said while the amount was less than what Constable Butcher was originally seeking, "This is a balancing exercise between the allocation of the community's money and our sympathy for Matt and his circumstances".

"My personal view was that what occurred to Matthew Butcher was nothing short of a horrific act of violence. The behaviour of the persons responsible for (his injuries) was utterly reprehensible."

Constable Butcher said the payout seemed reasonable since he would forever be catching taxis because he cannot drive and he was unlikely to age as "gracefully" as he hoped.

"No doubt there'll be everyone out there who will have their opinion on it and while I am sympathetic to other people who have received their payment payouts, look I didn't ask to be in this position," he said.

"Basically for anyone out there who doesn't think I deserve it, I'd ask them if they want to put their hand up and swap lives.

"I think walk a day in my shoes and they'll probably think 'maybe he deserves something'."

Mr Porter said accepting the payment would not preclude Constable Butcher from taking civil action against those responsible for his injuries.

Should he ever want to leave the police force he would still be able to access a lump-sum payment of up to $250,000 for his injuries under the police medical expenses act.

He would not reveal what Constable Butcher's asked for, but Opposition police spokeswoman Margaret Quirk said she understood the government's initial offer was "substantially less".

"The government wasn't opening the purse strings with much enthusiasm or generosity," she said.

Ms Quirk was also critical of the time taken to approve the payment, saying the government received the claim in September last year.

Constable Butcher said he was just relieved this day had come, especially ahead of his wife having a baby.

"Today is a massive relief this has been going on for quite some time," he said.

"I have had plenty of appointments and assessments to go to over the last few months in preparation for the application and now it's over. The way I look at it is, it's another chapter shut in this whole journey I've been through, yeah and we'll move on now.

"...We can now go into this our first birth knowing we've got some sort of financial security behind us and now Katrina can perhaps look at being an at home mum."

As to his unborn child growing up in a more voilent society, he said it was concerning and something he thought about but he would still encourage them should they decide to become a police officer.

"If that's what he/she wants to be then I'm all for it," he said.

"Look I love my job, I enjoy going to work every day unfortunately I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I've ended up like this but before this happened to me I never had too many bad days at work and life is great."

Constable Butcher still has to have ongoing physiotherapy.

"This arm doesn't work at all (indicating his left arm), my walking is still a project that we're still working on and we've got a hell of a long way to go on that one and I'm hoping it's going to get a lot better," he said.

"I I have bad blood circulation in my left leg now. That could have effects that could come back and haunt me in my later years, with a lack of blood flow to my feet.

"I guess they sort of see that I be more than likely will end up in a wheelchair at an earlier age than I once might of.

"I don't think I will age as gracefully as once I hoped I once would."

He said seeking further medical payments of up to $250,000 through police and taking civil action were options they would look at.

"If the lawyers think that's an option we should take then I'm all on board," he said.

He said he wasn't bitter about the fact that the McLeod family were found not guilty over the attack.

"That's life. Things happen which we don't always like we either dwell on it or we lift our head and move on and basically I've decided to move on," he said.

"I'm not going to let it drag me down. I've got a long life to live yet, I hope."