A $435,000 damages payout to a Victorian lawyer diagnosed with PTSD linked to years of going after depraved sex offenders has been reinstated by the High Court.
Zagi Kozarov worked in the Office of Public Prosecutions’ specialist sex offender unit from 2009 until 2012 when PTSD and a major depressive disorder forced her to stop.
She was initially awarded $435,000 by Victorian Supreme Court Justice Jane Dixon, who found her work dealing with cases involving “gross depravity” were to blame for her medical conditions.
The OPP had been on notice from late 2011 that Ms Kozarov was at risk of harm from her work and breached their duty of care toward her, the judge found.
But that finding was overturned by the Victorian Court of Appeal.
It rejected Justice Dixon’s findings that Ms Kozarov would’ve cooperated with steps to rotate her away from the serious sex offenders unit.
Ms Kozarov took her case against the State of Victoria to the High Court, which unanimously overturned the appeal court’s decision on Wednesday.
The High Court found the OPP had been placed on notice about Ms Kozarov’s risk of harm from her work and that the Court of Appeal was wrong to reject Justice Dixon’s findings.
Ms Kozarov’s role included routine interactions with survivors of trauma and exposure to traumatic experiences including attending court for sexual assault trials, meeting with alleged victims, viewing explicit child abuse material and preparing children for cross examination.
She had become increasingly vocal in 2010 about how her work was affecting her daily life, including paranoia about leaving her own children with others, including with teachers and refusing to allow her son to be an altar boy.
It was noted that in August 2011 Ms Kozarov was prepared to be assessed by a psychologist and that in February 2012 she cooperated with discussions about her future.
“Contrary to what the Court of Appeal found, Ms Kozarov would have cooperated and her exposure to trauma would have been reduced,” Justices Michelle Gordon and Simon Steward said in their decision.
The serious sex offenders unit was set up in 2007 to prosecute serious sexual offences. It was disbanded in December.
Ms Kozarov was also awarded costs.
Australian Associated Press