In August 2007, Justice Thomas Gray of the South Australian Supreme Court awarded a part-Aboriginal man, Bruce Trevorrow, the sum of $525,000 as compensation for injuries and losses he suffered after being separated from his parents when a baby, and as damages for his unlawful removal and false imprisonment. In February 2008, Justice Gray awarded Trevorrow another $250,000 as a lump sum in lieu of interest payments owed on the original award. Aboriginal activists greeted the outcome as a victory for the Stolen Generations and confirmation of the truth of their claims. Lowitja O’Donoghue told the Melbourne Age the Federal government should ‘take a leaf out of the book of Canada’ and, rather than force claimants to endure a lengthy court process, set up a non-judicial tribunal to make compensation payments to all indigenous people forcibly removed:
I want to say to the Australian Government and the Australian people that it is time to accept the history of Australia. It is time to understand there was a stolen generation, instead of all these history wars that have been debated since the Bringing Them Home report.
On Christmas Day in 1957, a couple drove up to the Adelaide Children’s Hospital with a very ill 13-month-old baby boy. The hospital admission record described the boy as a ‘neglected child — without parents’. The record said he suffered from ‘malnutrition’ and ‘infective diarrhoea’. The following note appeared on the history sheet:
Brought up by Mr and Mrs R. Evans, Meningie. Child unwell … Apparently been in the Tailem Bend Hosp. for abdominal trouble previously. He is one of three ¼ caste children. The other two children are neglected. Mother has cleared out and father is boozing. Apparently father is nourishing the children with alcohol (could almoner please investigate).
Mr and Mrs Evans were not the boy’s parents. They had been asked by Joseph Trevorrow to transport his baby son Bruce to the hospital in the city, 150 kilometres distant, because they were the only people he could find who had a car. Mrs Evans was a relative who lived not far from him at One Mile Camp near the town of Meningie, on the southern shore of Lake Alexandrina. Joseph and his de facto wife Thora Lampard had three other children, aged from nine to three years.
Justice Gray found that the information about Bruce Trevorrow’s family life on the hospital history sheet was untrue. Even though it was provided by Mr and Mrs Evans who knew the couple, and were related to them, the judge preferred other contemporary evidence that told a different story. In particular, he was persuaded by a letter written to the Aborigines Protection Board by the officer in charge of Meningie Police Station, Sergeant F. E. Liebing, who had been to the Trevorrow home in August and December 1957 and observed its living conditions. Shortly before Christmas Day, he had seen Bruce at the house and observed him to be healthy and well cared for. Rather than having abandoned the family at Christmas, the mother Thora was absent for only about one week. Other evidence came from John Weightman, a welfare officer with the Aborigines Department who visited the home in March 1958. He found the building and surroundings ‘reasonably clean and tidy’. The only child at home, a 3-year-old boy, was ‘warmly clad and only a little dirty from playing’. At the time, Joseph was employed on a nearby farm. Weightman wrote:
The general impression I gained from the visit was that, while living conditions were far from ideal, I could not recommend that any child be committed due to the unsatisfactory state of the home.
On the strength of this and some other corroborating evidence, Justice Gray found Bruce was not neglected, his father was not a drunkard who gave his children alcohol, and his mother had not cleared out. She had left home after an argument with Joseph about his eldest son from an earlier marriage who had been living with them until arrested by the police. Justice Gray found Bruce’s family was poor but loving. His judgement said:
The Trevorrow family were fringe dwellers on the outskirts of Meningie, building their accommodation from second-hand materials and living partly off the land and partly by purchased supplies. However, the general picture of a well-nourished family, both physically and mentally, and of a happy family emerged from the evidence.
The evidence established that Joseph was generally in regular although casual employment. The children were adequately clothed and fed. Joseph took an active interest in his children’s education. He encouraged their attendance at school. Thora was a loving mother who cared for her children and the home.
Moreover, Gray found that when he was admitted to hospital on Christmas Day, Bruce was not suffering from malnutrition. This was despite the fact that the paediatrician who examined him on admission actually diagnosed this as his condition. During the trial, the psychiatrist Professor Robert Goldney told why he believed the baby was malnourished:
[T]he very fact that [the plaintiff] was admitted to the Children’s Hospital in a malnourished state and I would refer to the report of the paediatrician — I think it is the paediatrician Dr Walker, where he has documented the weights and clearly indicated he was malnourished.
However, Gray preferred the conclusions of other medical specialists at the trial who examined the records of the baby’s diagnosis and concluded he had acute bacterial gastroenteritis and, as a result, had suffered dehydration and weight loss, giving him merely the appearance of being malnourished. This was established, Gray said, by the fact that the hospital’s treatment for his gastroenteritis was successful and he quickly recovered. By 6 January 1958, twelve days after his admission, Bruce had regained weight and was able to be discharged from hospital.
However, he was not discharged into the care of his parents. Instead, a welfare officer of the South Australian Aborigines Department placed him in the foster care of a white family. Shortly before, a white woman in Adelaide, Martha Davies, had responded to a newspaper advertisement seeking foster parents for Aboriginal babies:
Aboriginal Babies Need Homes
The [APB] wants foster homes for four aboriginal babies recently brought to Adelaide from settlements and now in the Children’s Hospital and McBride Maternity Hospital.
There are two boys and a girl aged six months and a six-week-old girl.
On 6 January 1958 the Aborigines Department advised Mrs Davies to go to the Adelaide Children’s Hospital to see a baby boy. She went with her husband Frank. They saw Bruce and were told he was neglected and abandoned because his mother had ‘gone on a walkabout’. They took him home that day. No paperwork for the removal was completed at the time. Marjory Angas, a welfare officer of the Aborigines Department, approved the handover on behalf of the Aborigines Protection Board. At the time, Martha Davies did not have the licence normally required of a foster parent. No one made an attempt to assess her suitability as a foster parent. The Aborigines Protection Board did not send her the proper application form until 6 February and she was not formally licensed until 20 February, more than six weeks after she gained custody of the boy.
Justice Gray did not comment on the fact that neither of Bruce’s parents went to visit him in hospital during the twelve days he was there from 25 December until 6 January. Instead, he placed sole blame for the removal on Marjory Angas, the welfare officer who, it emerged during the case, had been so convinced that Bruce’s parents were unfit to care for him that she lied to them about both his condition and his whereabouts. On 25 July 1958, Thora wrote to Angas for information about Bruce:
Dear Mrs Angas,
I am writing to ask if you will let me know how baby Bruce is and how long before I can have him home as I have not forgot I got a baby in there and I would like something defenat about him this time trust you will let me know as soon as possible.
Yours faithfully [Thora]
Gray observed that the reference to ‘this time’ indicated Thora had made at least one earlier request. On 19 August 1958, the secretary of the Aborigines Protection Board replied in a letter apparently drafted by Angas:
[Bruce] is making good progress but as yet the doctor does not consider him fit to go home.
Angas did not mention that the boy had already been in the foster care of another family for seven months. Gray said the inability of anyone to find a record of the alleged medical advice of ‘the doctor’, who was unidentified, satisfied him that no such advice existed.
In May 1959, Thora made another attempt to see Bruce, this time by appealing to Constable Goldie of the Meningie Police Station. Goldie wrote to the secretary of the Aborigines Protection Board about a conversation he had with her:
[Thora] has asked me to mention another matter to you. She says that she has a child, [the plaintiff], aged two years, in the care of the [Aborigines Protection Board]. [Thora] states that the child has been in the care of the Board for the past eighteen months and although she has tried on numerous occasions to see the child she has not been allowed to do so. I wonder if you could possibly look into this matter please and inform [Thora] whether she would be allowed to see the child or not.
Once again in a letter apparently drafted by Angas (since it bore her initials), the secretary of the board replied:
With reference to [the plaintiff], aged 2 years, I wish to advise that [Thora], has for many years lived improperly with [Joseph]. She has proved to be a most unsuitable mother for any of her children, and in the case of the above-mentioned child who was removed from her care due to the fact that he had been left by his mother in a critical condition.
It is most unlikely that I would be able to agree to this child being returned to the mother as her home is not in any way satisfactory for the benefit of the child’s health.
As far as I am aware [Thora] has never requested that she actually see [the plaintiff], but has demanded that the child be returned to her care.
It would be possible for [Thora] to see [the plaintiff] in the presence of a Welfare Officer if suitable arrangements were made in advance. It would also be necessary for her to fully understand that the child will not be returned to her.
One of the issues put by the defence at the trial was how little effort the mother made to have her son returned to her. Gray rejected any suggestion of this kind. Thora did seek contact with Bruce and ask for his return and ‘did so repeatedly over a period of years’. The secretary’s response that Thora had not asked to actually see the child was ‘disingenuous’. Her pleas for her child were ‘clear and consistent’. The assertion that she had left him in a critical condition was ‘plainly incorrect’. The board revealed ‘a level of determination’ that she not be reunited with her son.
Indeed, even after the proclamation of South Australia’s Aboriginal Affairs Act in 1963, which abolished the Aborigines Protection Board and reverted legal guardianship of separated children to their natural Aboriginal parents, no one in authority made any attempt to notify Thora of her rights. In fact, no one raised the issue with Thora until 1966 when she again approached the Department of Aboriginal Affairs about the return of her son. Bruce’s father Joseph died in January 1966 without ever seeing the boy again. That was ten months before Bruce was finally reunited with his mother in November 1966 at the department’s Adelaide offices, on his tenth birthday.
Why was Marjory Angas so determined to deny Thora access to the boy that she lied to her? She died before the case came to trial so could not provide any evidence of her own or be cross-examined. Nonetheless, Justice Gray went into the question in some depth. For a start, Angas apparently had a genuine belief that when Bruce was admitted to the Children’s Hospital he was, as the history sheet said, suffering malnutrition. She saw the diagnosis recorded by the paediatrician on duty at the time, Dr Walker, who weighed the boy ‘and clearly indicated he was malnourished’. Even twenty years later, when she wrote a report recognizing the psychological damage Bruce had suffered in his childhood, Angas still reaffirmed that belief. Gray’s judgement did not dispute that she held this view, even though he disagreed strongly that the boy was actually malnourished.
Angas had first met Thora and Joseph in April 1957, just four weeks after she joined the Aborigines Department as welfare officer of the Aborigines Protection Board. She visited their home to report on the condition of Bruce’s older sisters, Alice and Rita Trevorrow. Following the visit, a letter she drafted said:
We understand, the father [Joseph] of Meningie is illiterate and an habitual drunkard. He has a defacto wife, [Thora]. There are several illegitimate children of this union. [Joseph] has no permanent employment. Conditions in this camp are reported as most undesirable for children. Periodically [Thora] is forced to leave home and seek assistance for herself and the children.
Gray said her understanding of the family situation was ‘materially inaccurate’. He had seen no evidence that Thora had ever been forced to leave home and apply for assistance. Joseph was in regular employment and was not a habitual drunkard. Gray described Angas as ‘well-intentioned but unwittingly prejudiced’ in her dealings with Thora and Joseph.
It would appear that Mrs Angas was prejudiced against Joseph and Thora. I infer that this was the result of Mrs Angas’ relative inexperience when first dealing with the family and misinformation provided to her.
Observing that when Angas sent Bruce out to foster care she had been a welfare officer for less than nine months, Gray said her prejudices led her to break the rules of the normal procedures welfare officers followed when a child was removed from its natural parents and placed in foster care.
She was aware, or ought to have been aware, of the importance of maintaining ongoing contact between mother and child, and of both the natural parents’ and child’s right to have contact. Evidence from welfare officers confirmed that the usual practice was for contact to be maintained between natural family and child after removal. I am satisfied that there was no medical reason why the plaintiff should not have been returned to his mother, and that this suggested excuse proffered by Mrs Angas was simply a ruse to avoid the plaintiff being returned to Thora.
It was not until September 1977, when Bruce, aged 20, was before a court charged with break, enter and theft, that Angas wrote a report for the judge that publicly recognized the damage caused by his removal as a baby. Over the entire two decades, Angas had not only been the welfare officer who decided his fate but she also remained his confidant:
Although [the plaintiff] now lives with his family at Meningie it must be recognized that he has suffered severe maternal deprivation at a time of his life when his mother’s influence was most necessary for his development. In his particular case [the plaintiff] has also been deprived of a reliable mother substitute.
Psychiatrist assessments carried out on [the plaintiff] whilst he was under the supervision of the Child Guidance Clinic and Hillcrest Hospital indicate that [the plaintiff’s] behavioural problems may be influenced by psychological and/or other damage of a more permanent nature. …
[The plaintiff] and his family circumstances have been known to me since 1957 and I have personal knowledge and experience of the deprivation which [the plaintiff] has suffered. Like many young people who have been segregated from normal family relationships [the plaintiff] has problems in identifying with any particular group, individual and/or family. He does however report his circumstances quite frequently to me.
The range of health and behavioural problems Bruce displayed had emerged during his early childhood. Justice Gray was persuaded by both the chronology of events and their interpretation by child psychologists and psychiatrists that they were caused by the maternal deprivation he suffered by being removed from his natural mother.
Although Martha and Frank Davies initially treated him as just another member of the family, which included their three natural children, by the age of three he was diagnosed with trichotilliomania, a condition in which fretful infants pull out large patches of their hair. It was a sign of an early depressive condition. Bruce also had a speech defect and a mild form of cerebral palsy, which was not diagnosed until later in his life. As he grew, his complexion darkened and, to prepare him for school, the family told him he was Aboriginal, although this did not sink in until some time later.
By age eight he knew he was not the family’s natural child. He began stealing money from family members and regularly soiling his underwear on the way home from school. At the same time, his foster mother developed a psychological condition of her own and was hospitalized for it. Martha was now responding to Bruce’s disruptive behaviour by threatening to force him to leave the family and be placed elsewhere. He began what became a frequent program of consultations with child psychologists and psychiatrists.
By September 1966, when Bruce was ten years old, his natural mother again contacted the Department of Aboriginal Affairs asking to see him. The department arranged a meeting at its offices between Thora, her other children and Bruce. By this time, Thora’s second marriage had broken down and she and her children were living in welfare housing at Victor Harbor, a town on Encounter Bay, just west of the mouth of the Murray River. Bruce visited them one weekend in January 1967, escorted there and back by a welfare officer. Afterwards, Bruce’s behaviour with his foster family deteriorated and Martha complained to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. More psychiatric consultations resulted in the prescription of tranquillisers. In May 1967, a welfare officer again accompanied Bruce to Victor Harbor to spend the school holidays with his natural family. During the visit, the department decided he should remain there permanently. An officer collected his belongings from Martha’s household and the transfer was complete. The following month, a welfare officer and a child psychiatrist visited Victor Harbor. Although they found him lonely, friendless and overwhelmed by his new surroundings, his mother said he had nonetheless ‘settled in very well’ at home and at school.
Twelve months later, however, Bruce was arrested by the police at Victor Harbor and charged with several counts of theft and housebreaking. When she learnt of the offences, Thora beat him severely and refused to have him back in her house. He spent a month on remand in the Windana Boys Home, during which time Martha, although informed of where he was, made no attempt to contact him. On 26 July 1968, the magistrate at the Victor Harbor Juvenile Court ordered he be placed in the care of the Minister of Social Welfare until he reached eighteen years of age. He was then transferred to the Glandore Boys’ Home. At the time, EEG scans found ‘organic brain disease, or more likely damage’, indicating he had suffered numerous brief epileptic fits.
Bruce spent the following ten years in a variety of institutions, including boys’ reformatories, a mental hospital, and several schools and vocational training centres for disturbed youth. Although prescribed repeated medication of tranquillisers, antidepressants and anticonvulsants, he was prone to frequent outbursts of violence. He had few friends and, if not on medication, constantly fought with other boys. His institutional life was punctuated by short periods of foster care with his grown-up Aboriginal siblings and occasional weekend visits to his mother. Aged thirteen, when a child psychiatrist diagnosed that he desperately wanted to ‘belong’ to a family, he was placed with a different white foster mother. These attempts to normalize his relationships all ended in much the same way, with bouts of him ripping his clothes, spitting food, wetting himself, stealing and being violent. In 1971, aged fifteen, he was arrested and charged with assault, breaking and entering, larceny and consuming liquor while a minor. He had been drinking heavily most of that year. He was released into the care of his mother. He soon broke parole, left home and travelled around South Australia and interstate. In 1972 he appeared in Euston Children’s Court in New South Wales on a charge of stealing a motor vehicle. He was released on a good behaviour bond again into the care of his mother. However, he absconded yet again and spent a year wandering aimlessly around Australia.
After he ceased to be a juvenile, the judiciary remained just as tolerant of his criminal offences. In 1976, aged nineteen, he was sentenced to 28 days in prison for resisting arrest, assault, disorderly behaviour, wilful damage, break and enter, and larceny. However, the sentence was suspended on him entering a good behaviour bond. Indeed, the only substantial time he spent in jail was from February to June 1990 when he was employed first as a trainee prison officer and then as a prison officer at Pentridge Prison, Victoria.
As an adult, Bruce’s employment history was a combination of stable periods of work interrupted by periods of unemployment. Apart from labouring work with local government bodies and the railways in South Australia and Queensland, much of his employment was in public sector job creation programs with quotas for people of Aboriginal descent. He met Veronica Pepper in 1980. She was a relative of his mother. They married and had four children. They spent most of their married life in the Gippsland district town of Bairnsdale, Victoria. However, the mental disturbance and inability to form lasting relationships that dogged Bruce throughout his childhood and youth affected his married life too. ‘The marriage has not been happy,’ Justice Gray observed. ‘To the contrary, it is an unhappy and unsatisfactory relationship.’
The plaintiff’s relationship with his wife has from time to time been violent. To a large extent this has been exacerbated by the plaintiff’s depression and alcohol abuse. In April 1985, following a brawl with his wife when he was intoxicated, the plaintiff was hospitalized with a head injury. On another occasion, on 24 August 1994, the plaintiff was charged with common assault on his wife, however the charge was subsequently withdrawn.
Bruce suffered from his early ailments and illnesses all his adult life. In 1992 he was admitted again to a psychiatric hospital. In 1997, he was treated for problems associated with psychosis. He spoke to a doctor about experiencing voices and suicidal thoughts. He also spoke about alcohol abuse and binge drinking. A report from the Meningie Health Service in November 1997 indicated he was suffering from chronic depression with intermittent episodes of acute psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive airways disease with recent severe exacerbation requiring ventilation, and giant cell arteritis. In 1998, he was assessed as presenting with moderate depression with anxiety, considerable social stressors, poor physical health and non-compliance with prescribed medication. In May 2000, he was admitted to hospital with a stab wound to the chest and a collapsed lung. The incident occurred at a party when he and his wife engaged in a violent quarrel.
In his judgement, Gray held this myriad of problems could all be traced to Bruce’s removal from his natural mother as a baby. In applying what he called a ‘commonsense test’ to the long-term consequences of his removal and the maternal deprivation that entailed, the judge declared ‘that causation had been established’.
All causes of action had at their genesis the plaintiff’s removal from his natural family and the severing of the attachment between mother and child. This, from a commonsense point of view, was a material cause of his serious lifelong depression and its sequelae. His depression has led to feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, difficulties with alcohol and difficulty coping with the everyday exigencies of life.
Establishing one single cause for all Bruce’s problems was beyond the ability of Justice Gray, or indeed anyone else. Causation in social problems requires more than ‘commonsense’. At the very least, it requires testing by comparison with a control group of other people from a very similar background but who were not subject to the single factor suspected of being the cause. The history of Bruce’s siblings and half-siblings, who were not removed from their family as babies but who nonetheless had their own share of social and behavioural problems, indicated Bruce would have suffered at least some of the same problems even if he had not been maternally deprived.
When Bruce was born his father already had three children from a former marriage. Two of them spent time in institutional care during their adolescence. The eldest, also called Joseph Trevorrow, then aged twenty, was living with his father and Thora in 1957 when he was arrested for two offences and sentenced to eight weeks in the Adelaide Prison. At about the same time, Joseph’s other two older daughters, Rita (seventeen) and Alice (fifteen), were the subject of a police report. Rita was placed by the Aborigines Department as a domestic servant at Woomera in the state’s outback, and Alice was committed to Vaughan House Training School for ‘wayward girls’.
Although they had three children of their own, the relationship between Joseph and Thora was not stable. Five months after Bruce was removed from what Justice Gray called his ‘caring and loving parents’, Thora abandoned the family to marry Cyril Karpany. She left her three remaining children, Hilda (nine), George (five) and Tom (three) with their father. However, Joseph promptly sent the two boys to live with his sister, Mrs Vizzard. The arrangement came to the attention of Sergeant Liebing of the Meningie police, who was so concerned he wrote to the Aborigines Protection Board:
I would appreciated [sic] if when one of your officers next visits this area to visit Mrs Vizzard and sees to the welfare of these children. I am of the strong opinion that neither [Joseph] nor Thora should be allowed to look after these children due to their past conduct. Mrs Vizzard is an elderly woman and the tie of these children may be too great for her and I am also informed that she suffers from mental troubles and in one of these conditions she may endanger the lives of these children.
Twelve months later, Mrs Vizzard called at the office of the Aborigines Protection Board asking to be relieved of the care of the boys since she could no longer care for them. The department offered to place them in either a foster family or its home for boys at Semaphore in Adelaide, but Joseph refused. So they went to live with Thora for a time. However, Thora’s relationship with Cyril Karpany was hardly ideal. Justice Gray called the marriage ‘turbulent and violent’. When drunk, Cyril would frequently bash Thora. One assault on her was so severe he served time in prison. The Trevorrow children told the court that Cyril was not usually violent towards them, except George whom he ‘belted’ for trying to defend his mother. The children soon went back to live with Joseph and remained there until his death in 1967. Meanwhile, Thora’s new family remained in abject poverty. Cyril found little work and the couple and their own children relied upon loans and handouts from the Aborigines Department. In September 1963, when Thora was pregnant with the third child of the relationship, welfare officer Brian Bennett visited them and reported:
The family have moved between Tailem Bend, Meningie and Bonney Reserve during the past two years, living under shocking circumstances. Recently due to [Thora’s] confinement they moved to Tailem Bend again and are now living in what is known as Taylor’s shack. The reason for moving was to enable [Thora] to be near medical attention. It is known that [Thora] has been suffering from Toxaemia of pregnancy, and heart condition and requires the maximum amount of rest possible.
I visited the shack on 6th September, 1963, and found that the shack is far from weather-proof, having deteriorated during this severe winter. The floor and mattresses were damp, and the whole structure drafty. As the shack is situated on the river bank it is necessary for [Thora] to climb a particularly steep cliff each time she visits Tailem Bend for shopping or for medical attention. Toilet facilities are nil.
I arranged for [Thora] to be admitted to the Tailem Bend hospital on my last visit which means that she will be due for discharge very soon, and will be taking a new born baby into these surroundings. As employment with accommodation has proved negative, I am of the opinion that something must be done to assist this family.
In 1965, Thora gave up Cyril as ‘a hopeless case’ and left him. Marjory Angas arranged for the Aborigines Department to give her a house at Victor Harbor plus rental allowance and cash assistance. With the department as her provider, Thora’s life finally gained some stability. However, problems with her children continued. In September 1967, she was convicted of failing to send Tom, one of her three children with Joseph, to school. As a result, Tom was sent to Glandore Boys’ Home for six months.
These, then, were the alternatives available to Bruce Trevorrow had he not been removed from his parents in January 1958. While Justice Gray was clearly right to point to the numerous psychological afflictions that derived from the removal, it is hard to believe all the difficulties of his life could be attributed to it. Even if Bruce had remained with his mother, the cerebral palsy he suffered from birth and the brain damage caused by his childhood epilepsy would probably have ensured he suffered many of the social and behavioural problem he experienced throughout his life. The troubled lives of his siblings indicated the burden of social strife he would have faced had he remained where he was.
However, none of these qualifications invalidate the central finding of Justice Gray that Bruce suffered seriously from his childhood separation. It clearly exacerbated his existing physical disabilities. He deserved a verdict in his favour. This was especially so, given the major issue I have not discussed so far, but which was virtually guaranteed to settle the case in his favour from the outset: the fact that the actions of the Aborigines Protection Board in placing Bruce in foster care without his parents’ agreement was actually illegal at the time. That issue is discussed in a section below, but let me first record the final events in the chronology of this case.
In February 2008, the South Australian government lodged an appeal against Justice Gray’s decision. The Labor government of Mike Rann said it was seeking clarification on ‘points of law’ and did not want the return of the $775,000 payout, which had been made only the month before. However, in the notice of appeal lodged in the South Australian Supreme Court registry on 28 February, the government challenged the payout of $525,000 and the additional amount of $250,000 for interest owed on the original. The registry notice said: ‘This appeal is against the whole of the judgements.’ The government sought to have every order made by Justice Gray set aside, including the size of the damages. It set out more than twenty-five disputes of the facts of the case. Among them was a dispute of the judge’s finding that Bruce’s parents did not consent to their son’s removal.
On 20 June 2008, just five months after he received his compensation, Bruce Trevorrow died. He was aged 51. He had been admitted to hospital four weeks before suffering heart and lung problems. Although placed in an intensive care ward he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was still married to Veronica who was at his bedside at the time, along with no fewer than fifteen other relatives. His death initially cast doubt on the future of the government’s appeal against Justice Gray’s decision. However, to avoid being engaged in legal action against a dead man, the government succeeded in having his widow replaced as defendant in the appeal. Lawyers for the widow, then known as Veronica Lampard-Trevorrow, argued in the state Supreme Court for the appeal to be stayed because of the huge payout of legal costs against the estate if the appeal was successful. Barrister for the widow, Julian Burnside, told judge Richard White that it would be an injustice to allow the state to run a lengthy appeal to get a costs order and then use it to reclaim an amount greater than the damages. Burnside said the state’s legal costs of more than $1 million would bankrupt the Trevorrow estate if costs were enforced.
On 24 December 2008, Justice White dismissed the bid to have the appeal permanently stayed. The judge said whatever sympathy he might have for the circumstances of Mrs Lampard-Trevorrow and the difficult position she had been placed in, the government’s appeal was not an abuse of the court’s process. ‘The exercise of appeal rights is an ordinary incident of litigation, well known to all who participate in it, whether as plaintiffs or defendants.’