Federal Circuit and Family Court drops sexual harassment suit over near-20-year delay

According to the court, the allegations also lacked context

Federal Circuit and Family Court drops sexual harassment suit over near-20-year delay

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (FCFCOA) has dismissed an application for leave to commence proceedings over a sexual discrimination and harassment suit due to an almost-20-year delay in filing the case.

Belinda Lee Darcy had wished to advance a claim for an alleged breach of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) against Joseph Arthur Lyons. The court found that the police had investigated Darcy’s allegations, and no charges were filed against Lyons.

The court ruled that Lyons would suffer “substantial prejudice” due to the “extraordinary” delay if the proceedings were continued.

Darcy had initially filed a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission, but the complaint was terminated because it was made more than a year after the alleged acts occurred. Moreover, Darcy did not explain nor present any material to convince the commissioner that the claim “ought to be extended.”

According to court records, Darcy alleged several events that supported her claim, but the court noted that Darcy’s affidavit did not “add any context” to the allegations.

“Devoid of any context, it is difficult to see how some of the matters about which there are complaints made would fall within the purview of the [Act],” the court said.

The court noted that Darcy presented some evidence in her affidavit that she started inquiring about the possible nature of the suit, among other considerations, after she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2017. However, Darcy’s affidavit did not explain her delay in making an application, since the alleged acts occurred between 1998 and 2002.

“If it was the case that she says that she did not know that Mr Lyons’ acts amounted to discrimination, then she does not say that,” the court said.

The court added that in any event, lack of knowledge about the nature of the acts “would not be an answer to the delay,” and neither was Darcy’s PTSD diagnosis.

Both parties represented themselves without the assistance of lawyers. The court’s orders were given on 12 October.

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