Owen Hughes leaving Federal court, Brisbane.
Owen Hughes leaving Federal court, Brisbane. Liam Kidston

Solicitor who will appeal harassment finding quits law

A SOLICITOR who was found to have sexually harassed a former employee has ceased practising law as he awaits an appeal.

Bangalow solicitor Owen Hughes, of Beesley and Hughes Lawyers, was earlier this year sued for sexual harassment by former employee Catherine Mia Hill.

The Federal Circuit Court Judge Vasta initially ordered him to pay Ms Hill $170,000 in a May 24 judgment.

But Mr Hughes has since lodged an appeal both against the findings of harassment and the damages ordered.

The matter returned to court this month, when justice Andrew Greenwood placed a stay on the original orders, pending the appeal hearing.

This stay will be subject to conditions, including that Mr Hughes pay $10,000 into the court or an account agreed between the parties.

In this month's appearance, Mr Hughes was specifically seeking for an extension of time to institute the appeal, which was not opposed by Ms Hill's legal representative.

Mr Hughes was also seeking leave to amend the grounds of his appeal.

Judge Vasta, in the initial judgment, found Mr Hughes engaged in conduct that constituted sexual harassment toward Ms Hill.

Ms Hill claimed her former boss directed relationship requests, uninvited hugging and other conduct her way in the time after she began working as a paralegal at his firm in May, 2015.

Judge Vasta awarded Ms Hill $120,000 in general damages and $50,000 in aggravated damages.

Justice Greenwood said Mr Hughes would argue the court "erred in concluding that the conduct the subject of the proceeding was (sexual harassment)”.

"(Mr Hughes) says that the primary judge's award of general damages of $120,000 was manifestly excessive and outside the range of damages open having regard to the evidence,” Justice Greenwood said.

He said Mr Hughes claimed the aggravated damages were also "manifestly excessive”.

While Mr Hughes was ordered to pay Ms Hill damages within 21 days of June 28, he did not.

The court heard Mr Hughes would rely upon an affidavit from July 10 and oral evidence given to the court relating to his assets.

Mr Hughes was "presently unfit to work” due to medical conditions and was currently not practising as a solicitor, the court heard.

Justice Greenwood found that a stay on the damages was warranted.

It's understood a future court date for the appeal hearing has not yet been scheduled.



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