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Damages awarded for discrimination against former Dogs Victoria committee member

A long serviceman of dog training, obedience and competitions has been reimbursed for damages after being unable to take a senior committee position because of a spent conviction.

Life member of the Croydon and District Obedience Dog Club and Dogs Victoria, Frank Tipping, took the latter organisation to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for not allowing him to nominate for vice president due to his convictions.

The now 84-year-old was in his early 20s when he committed his last offence and had no convictions recorded post that time.

On request of Dogs Victoria, while Mr Tipping was serving as part of the management committee, a national police check was submitted by him in 2020.

The 2017 dated document showed Mr Tipping’s convictions from the 1960s. He later asked this document be permanently removed from his file held by Dogs Victoria.

This request was not acted on according to Dogs Victoria’s chief executive officer Jason Eggleton who gave evidence at the hearing, where he said the document “remained in his executive file regarding Management Committee members”.

At the June 2021 annual general meeting, Dogs Victoria changed the definition of a disqualified person to include a person with a criminal record, who was convicted in the criminal court for offences including fraud, theft and embezzlement. This was again updated in 2022.

When Mr Tipping nominated himself for the role of vice president in January 2022, Mr Eggleton advised him he was ineligible as a disqualified person.

Mr Tipping remained on the management committee until March 2022 when he filed his self-represented VCAT action.

A letter from Mr Eggleton in July 2022 advised Mr Tipping he would be stood down from duties on the management committee unless he provided a police check and statutory declaration confirming he was not a disqualified person.

Since Mr Tipping did not respond within the 21 day timeline, he was stood down from the committee in August 2022.

“You have ceased to be a member of the Management Committee,” Mr Eggleton’s letter stated.

In December 2022, Mr Tipping sought legal advice and submitted an amended Particulars of Claim outlining the discrimination he faced from Dogs Victoria.

VCAT member Webb found that the Equal Opportunity Act applied to Mr Tipping’s case, as well as the Spent Convictions Act, which was introduced in March 2021 and commenced in December the same year.

“The introduction of the SC Act was clearly aimed at reducing stigma and providing opportunity for members of the community with historic low-level convictions to contribute meaningfully,” member Webb stated.

“It is uncontested that Mr Tipping has convictions that are now spent. None of the convictions were considered serious as defined by the SC Act. His convictions in a Court of Law in the 1950s and early 1960s were spent by 5 July 1973.”

Member Webb agreed Mr Tipping’s determination as a disqualified person based on his spent convictions was in fact discriminatory.

“The application of the rule by Dogs Victoria was direct [discrimination] against Mr Tipping by virtue of his not being permitted to nominate for election due to the consideration of spent convictions,” Member Webb said.

Dogs Victoria was also found to have indirectly discriminated against Mr Tipping by introducing the rules of disqualification at the AGM, had victimised Mr Tipping for standing him down from the management committee after he had lodged VCAT action and discriminated against him in asking him to provide a statutory declaration regarding his spent convictions.

Based on this, Mr Tipping claimed he had experienced reputational damage as a renowned judge at dog shows, as well as health issues and lost his positions within Dogs Victoria.

“I accept that there has been reputational damage to Mr Tipping within the dog breeding and show community,” member Webb said.

“Having been involved in the activities of Dogs Victoria for over 50 years, highly active in the public activities of Dogs Victoria, and awarded Life Membership in 2014, a prestigious recognition, Mr Tipping would be well known within this community.

“He is 82 years of age and rightfully proud of his contribution to this particular community.”

Member Webb said for the discrimination, impact on his reputation, distress and disappointment, he would award the amount of $18,000 to Mr Tipping.

“I have no power to rectify this disappointment by making any orders about the nomination or Mr Tipping’s position on the Management Committee,” he said.

“I believe that an apology has the important role of providing Mr Tipping with public acknowledgement that his rights were breached by the actions of Dogs Victoria.”

Dogs Victoria was also ordered to destroy and/or delete all copies of Mr Tipping’s 2017 police check document from their files.

Both Mr Tipping and Dogs Victoria were contacted for comment.

Taken from the Star Mail Media Release on January 22, 2024

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