$80,000 for Peeping Tom victim

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 March, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 March, 1999, 12:00am

A student whose 'dignity as a woman' was insulted by a Peeping Tom has been awarded $80,000 damages in the first court ruling of its kind.

The woman, 23, was filmed undressing in her Chinese University dormitory room over five months from November 1996 by a video camera secretly installed by Tse Chi-pan, also 23.

Tse was yesterday ordered by District Court Judge Wong Hing-chun to pay $80,000 and make a written apology, at the end of the first sexual harassment suit to be brought by the Equal Opportunities Commission. He was also ordered to pay costs.

'The defendant had carefully measured the angle and distance of the lens,' the judge said, 'indicating his perverted lewdness.' This was 'compounded by his showing the tape to [a friend], his failure to apologise and his false declaration of love in an attempt to get himself off the hook'.

The woman had told the court that she was horrified to discover that Tse, her roommate's former boyfriend, had hidden the video camera in her room.

On March 6, 1997, she confronted Tse after finding his dictionary among books propping up the hidden camera.

'I felt that he had intruded on my dignity as a woman. I was shocked, as I was his girlfriend's best friend, that he could do such a thing,' she has said.

'He didn't apologise, he just shamelessly said that he did it because he loved me.' The judge said the incident left the woman feeling 'violated, exploited, betrayed, humiliated and hurt'.

'She was afraid to stay in her hostel room, unable to sleep alone for a month, and missed class for three weeks. She felt she was watched whenever she changed her clothes,' the judge said.

The commission - which has been criticised as a 'toothless' body - said the ruling would help stamp out sexual harassment and promote equality between the sexes.

'These cases are an important step in the work of the EOC to eliminate discrimination and harassment,' chairwoman Dr Fanny Cheung Mui-ching said.

'The judgments make it clear this type of conduct is unacceptable.' Tse was ordered to pay $50,000 for injuries to feelings, plus $20,000 in exemplary damages for the distress caused.

A further $10,000 was demanded for 'adding insult to injury' by having a friend make two telephone calls to the woman in a bid to pressure her to drop her allegations.

'He was defiant, unrepentant and vindictive and his behaviour is tantamount to flouting the law,' Dr Cheung said.

Tse's former girlfriend, Ng Hoi-sze, also took action against the victim by suing her for alleged breach of rules on guests in rooms. It was blocked by a judge in February this year, however.