Tribunal rejects victimisation complaint

SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR
Last updated 13:34 13/06/2014

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The Human Rights Review Tribunal has dismissed further complaints by a West Coast man trespassed from a rural school.

In January 2009, Friedrich Fehling was served with a trespass notice requiring he stay off the grounds of South Westland Area School. At the time, he had been living on the school grounds in a van.

The school said people felt intimidated by Fehling's presence, but the tribunal found there was no evidence of a threat and in July 2012 awarded Fehling $10,000 in damages for hurt feelings and loss of dignity.

This week's decision related to an interview then-board of trustees chairman Douglas Appleby gave to a local newspaper in August 2012.

Fehling alleged that Appleby's published comments, which implied he had been trespassed because of safety fears, were victimisation or indirect discrimination.

The tribunal found that although Appleby's comments were "unwise", they did not amount to the claims Fehling alleged. The school had shared facilities the community was able to use at certain times, including the library and gym.

Because Fehling was trespassed for two years, he lost access to these shared facilities, which he claimed was discrimination prohibited under the Human Rights Act.

The tribunal said there was no indication that Fehling had been issued the trespass notice based on grounds of prohibited discrimination, but did note there was "no doubt" he was "regularly a victim of discrimination" within the Hari Hari community.

Fehling opted for $1000 of the damages to go back to the school as a fund for disadvantaged students. Costello was to receive $4000 and Fehling requested the remaining $5000 to be paid to himself.

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- The Press

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