A house owned by a family that harassed and threatened a Queensland gay couple will be sold in August to pay the family’s legal fees.
Tim Wilson and Shane McCollum endured a campaign of threats and homophobic taunts from neighbour Jean Lawson and her adult son Paul in a conflict sparked by a complaint about her noisy dogs.
The Lawsons also made allegations to police that resulted in McCollum being arrested three times and charged with nine offences, and contacted Channel Seven’s Today Tonight who ran a story on the couple.
In July 2007 the couple were forced to move from the area after police set bail conditions so onerous that Wilson would have breached them by simply entering or exiting his home.
All charges were later dismissed in court.
In 2008 Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Tribunal ordered the Lawsons to pay the couple damages of $23,000.
That money was paid. But legal fees resulting from Jean Lawson mounting three unsuccessful appeals against the couple have put Wilson and McCollum $30,000 out of pocket.
The Court of Appeal then ordered the Lawsons to pay their costs in a legal first for a sexuality discrimination case.
A warrant of execution has been served on a mortgaged property owned by Paul Lawson, and the couple hope to serve another warrant soon on the house Jean Lawson harassed them from.
Police officers involved in the case were recently investigated by the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission.
One complaint related to the actions of police during a search for firearms that were claimed to have been in the couple’s home. None were found.
The second related to the actions of police generally during their interaction with the couple in 2007 and 2008.
“In the first case the actions of police were found to be lawful and reasonable … In the second case, the nominated police officer was exonerated,” A Queensland Police spokeswoman told Sydney Star Observer.
No action will be taken against the officers.
Wilson told Sydney Star Observer he hoped the auctioning of the houses would send a message, not just to those who harass GLBT people, but neighbourhood bullies in general.
“You’ve got to think before you speak these days,” Wilson said.
“This is the 21st century and no one in this country should have to put up with what we went through.
“I advise anyone who is suffering in a similar situation that you have to go and ask for help. You can’t just sit there and put up with it, because it won’t go away.”
Wilson said it was important to document harassment while it was happening by keeping a diary or taking photographs as these could later be relied on in court — but if there was a risk of physical harm, it was time to move out.
The couple plan to write a book about their experience.