10 February 2010
LEGAL - $335,000 Fine for Australian Bullies who tormented waitress to suicide fined - Brodie Panlock
FOUR men have been fined a total of $335,000 over the relentless bullying of a young waitress who killed herself.
Brodie Panlock, 19, was subjected to the humiliating bullying by her workmates at Cafe Vamp, in Melbourne, before she threw herself from a multi-storey car park in September 2006.
She had been spat on, called ugly and, on one occasion, had fish oil poured all over her hair and clothes.
One tormentor even told her to take rat poison.
Her parents have called for changes to the law so courts can jail workplace bullies.
Nicholas Smallwood, 26, Rhys MacAlpine, 28, and Gabriel Toomey, 23, all pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates Court to failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of persons.
Cafe Vamp's owner, Marc Luis Da Cruz, and his company, MAP Foundation, pleaded guilty to two charges, including failing to provide and maintain a safe working environment.
Magistrate Peter Lauritsen described their actions as "the most serious case of bullying", adding that he would have doubled the penalties if they had not pled guilty.
Smallwood was fined $45,000, MacAlpine $30,000 and Toomey $10,000.
Da Cruz, 43, was fined $30,000 and his company $220,000.
The court was told last week of the distressing details of her ordeal at Cafe Vamp, where she worked between June 2005 and September 2006.
Prosecutor Gary Livermore told a pre-sentence hearing on Friday that witnesses had seen Smallwood and MacAlpine pour fish oil into Ms Panlock's kitbag and then pour it over her hair and clothes.
He said that both men had called her fat and ugly and spat on her.
Ms Panlock had tried to commit suicide in May 2006 by taking rat poison after being rejected by Smallwood, with whom she had had an intimate relationship.
Mr Livermore said that after that incident rat poison was put in her bag, and MacAlpine had told her to go and take it.
Da Cruz was aware of the bullying, he said, and on occasions told them to "take it out the back".
Smallwood, MacAlpine and Toomey no longer work at the cafe.
In addition to the fine Smallwood was told this morning that he had lost his job in Queensland.
Outside the court, Ms Panlock's mother Rae, who had been unaware of the bullying, described her daughter as a "beautiful girl who was full of compassion".
"She was my little ray of sunshine, a very pretty girl, and the things that they said about her ... what can you say, it just breaks your heart.
"As far as I'm concerned they drove her to the edge and they pushed her over - as far as I'm concerned they should be in jail."
Ms Panlock's father Damien said the law should be changed to include a custodial sentence.
"Change the law," he told reporters.
The acting executive director of WorkSafe Victoria, Stan Krpan, said the sentences sent a clear message to the community that workplace bullying should not be tolerated.
"The offending in this case was of the most serious nature, the most serious category of offending," Mr Krpan said.
"The culpability was high, the culture at this workplace was vicious and was not acceptable."
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) or beyondblue.