Security firm boss fights sex case damages
A CEO who sexually assaulted one of his employees may have to pay her thousands of dollars in damages.
Quinton Neil Francis, 43, part-owner of security firm SAS Protection Services, attacked the woman in 2012 while the pair were on an evening patrol at the Horizons property in Paget.
His victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is now seeking recompense through the Human Rights Commission and her lawyer told a tribunal yesterday how she was “dragged into a room” by Francis, before he pulled her shirt over her head and exposed her left breast by pulling off her bra cup.
Arion Mapp, representing the woman, told the three-person HRC panel: “Essentially, this was sexual assault that took place in the workplace by a superior. There was a high degree of aggressiveness and physical contact, where the complainant was trying to get up and was forced down.”
He cited his client’s “vulnerability” as a “worker taken advantage of by a superior” and said she resigned the day after the assault.
Francis was convicted of sexually assaulting the worker and intruding on her privacy, causing her alarm, after a trial at the Magistrates’ Court in 2014.
He denied both charges but Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo said the accused did not impress him as a “witness of truth”. He noted: “I do not believe he gave an honest account when testifying.”
Francis appealed to the Supreme Court, where the intrusion of privacy conviction was dismissed and the sexual assault conviction was upheld. He was sentenced on November 25, 2015 to two years’ probation and a $3,000 fine.
In addition to her criminal complaint, the woman filed a grievance with the HRC, on the grounds that the Human Rights Act prohibits any person from abusing a position of authority to sexually harass another person and gives employees the right to freedom from sexual harassment in the workplace.
HRC chairman Tawana Tannock said the issue of liability was not before yesterday’s tribunal as liability had been “fully accepted by Mr Francis” following mediation.
The hearing was concerned solely with the amount of any damages to be awarded to the victim.
Mr Mapp argued the sum should fall within the range of $14,000 to $42,000, with a suggested figure somewhere in the middle.
The lawyer said while the woman did not suffer a physical injury, there was injury to her feelings, including fear that evening as she rode home that Francis could be riding behind her, and feeling “emotionally drained” after giving evidence in court.
“There was a loss of employment because the complainant resigned the next day because she couldn’t cope with working in that kind of work environment,” said Mr Mapp, who added that her evening job at SAS was in addition to her full-time occupation with another company.
He said his client told an SAS colleague about the assault the same evening and the colleague advised her: “Don’t tell anyone” before suggesting she speak directly to Francis.
“The process for dealing with it was for her to speak to her attacker,” said Mr Mapp. “Our position is that there was no policy. I have not seen any policy that was in place at that time for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace.”
Sara Tucker, representing Francis, said any payout should be between $5,000 and $15,000. Ms Tucker argued that the victim had not proved the injury to her feelings and “especially not enough” to warrant the amount proposed by Mr Mapp.
She said that “apart from a night of crying” after it happened, the victim hadn’t described any other injury to her feelings and had stated in her complaint that she told the colleague the next day she “felt better”.
“The complainant worked the remainder of her shift,” said Ms Tucker, adding that some people would have left straight after the assault. She noted that Francis put the woman into a headlock while they were patrolling Horizons, after he asked her why she hadn’t agreed to take self-defence training.
Ms Tucker said the headlock did not form part of the sexual assault and shouldn’t be taken into account as it was something that was done to SAS employees to make sure they were “aware of their surroundings”.
In her complaint, the woman said she was still in the headlock when Francis walked her inside an empty guest cottage. She said he held one of her arms by force as he grabbed her shirt, held it over her head, grabbed her bra and pulled it up.
“I said ‘f*** you, stop’,” the woman stated. “That is when he finally let me go.”
The hearing continues this morning at 8am at the HRC’s office at Milner Place, Victoria Street. The panel’s decision on damages is expected at a later date.