Farmer sued over Peeping Tom offences

·2-min read

Two overseas backpacker students are suing a NSW farmer for mental harm after he was jailed for secretly filming them in private acts.

The women Ellen Olsson and Lian Hikspoors, who were in Australia on tourist visas, worked for Simon James Fagan as fruit pickers on an isolated 7000 acre property at Coonamble.

In the NSW District Court on Friday, Judge Leonard Levy made preliminary rulings in their civil case stemming from the Peeping Tom type offences.

He said Fagan pleaded guilty in Coonamble Local Court in August 2020 after more than 2500 illicit images were discovered on his recording equipment.

He was convicted of installing devices and adapting a building to film and observe others, and filming the women separately in private acts without their consent in aggravated circumstances.

He also was found to have later stalked and intimidated with the intention of causing personal fear and harm.

He served a term of imprisonment for the offences.

The women's lawsuits includes claims for "breach of a claimed obligation of confidence", an alleged breach of an implied obligation to provide safe accommodation, and alleged breaches of the Australian Consumer Law.

"The plaintiffs claim the events in question have caused them to each suffer mental harm, and nervous shock," the judge said.

He refused Fagan's application to strike out the case, finding the women's identified claims were arguable and justifiable.

While aspects of the actions were "relatively novel", the judge said the claims of implied breaches of the respective duties of care owed to the women are reasonably arguable.

He also refused Fagan's request that his name, and the names of the plaintiffs, not be published.

The judge noted his name has already been publicly identified in the Local Court criminal proceedings, while the magistrate did make non-publication orders in relation to his victims.

However, they had not requested those orders, and were prepared to be identified by their proper names in their civil action, the judge said.

"In these proceedings, the plaintiffs have an unfettered right to proceed using their own names without restriction," he said.

"It would therefore be oppressive, unjust, and contrary to the principles of open justice to make such orders against their wishes without evidence as to the need for such orders."

Fagan also sought an order that Ellen Olsson, a student who now lives in Sweden, deposit an amount into court as security for his legal costs.

While he claimed an amount of $58,000, the judge ordered her to pay $2000 into court within 14 days of a failed mediation.

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