An Australian community warden who claimed he was racially abused by colleagues who constantly greeted him with ‘G’day Sport’ is taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Geoff Stephens, who has been in the UK for 27 years after coming over from Australia when he was 22 years old, claimed he suffered a barrage of abuse from co-workers for being Australian.
The 49-year-old worked as a community warden battling anti-social behaviour in Dymchurch, Kent, for six years until he quit with depression in 2010.
He claimed that the ‘racism’ and bullying’ he suffered at work ‘would eventually have killed him’ and that he constantly asked colleagues to stop making jokes about him being an Aussie.
He said that fellow wardens constantly greeted him with ‘G’day Sport’, ‘Is your girlfriend called Sheila?’ and made jokes about kangaroos and asked him to ‘Throw another shrimp on the barbie’.
The former immigration worker, who was also a governor at the local Dymchurch Primary School, went off sick in August 2010 with depression after the taunts went on unabated.
Mr Stephens took Kent County Council to an employment tribunal in January this year but eventually lost his discrimination case and his appeal was thrown out.
But this week it can be revealed that Adelaide-born Mr Stephens, who is married to Christine and lives in Folkestone, Kent, is taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
He said he believes Kent County Council chiefs monitored a string of private phone calls – including one he made to his doctor to find out if he was ‘genuinely sick’ when he went off work with depression.
He said: ‘I’m totally disappointed with the tribunal outcome but am really hopeful about Europe.
‘The last few months have been a nightmare and my whole life has been turned upside down.
‘I have transcripts which prove they listened to my private conversations, including one with my doctor to see if I was telling the truth about my health.
‘I thought ‘Strewth’, and couldn’t believe it when I realised. It’s a breach of my human rights under article 8, the right to privacy.’
A spokesman for the council refused to comment on the allegations about listening in to Mr Stephens’ phone calls, only saying: ‘That claim was struck out on the grounds that it was vexatious.
‘It would be inappropriate for us to comment any further.’
Speaking last year about the case, Mr Stephens said: ‘I’ve only been able to sleep for three hours a night since August, and the physical and mental exhaustion will eventually kill me.
‘I feel like my life has been ripped apart. I loved my job with a passion and I did a lot of good work in Dymchurch.’
‘I built up a good rapport with the local youths, but the village will now suffer from not having a regular community warden in place.’
A local, who did not want to be named, said: ‘Geoff is a great warden.
‘He’s got an Australian accent and people rib him about it, but nobody knew quite how much it was affecting him.
‘I think he doesn’t mind the kids having a laugh about putting another shrimp on the barbie or sating ‘G’day sport’, but its the constant references to Australia from his colleagues that is obviously getting him down.’
by Robbo Green