FGX v Gaunt [2023] EWHC 419 (KB)

In the matter of FGX v Gaunt [2023] EWHC 419 (KB), the plaintiff, FGX, commenced court proceedings against the defendant, Stuart Gaunt, seeking damages for injuries and losses as a result of indirect abuse. The plaintiff was a 49-year-old woman who commenced a romantic relationship with the defendant in March 2016, and they moved in together two months’ later in May 2016. In October 2017, the plaintiff discovered that the defendant had hidden a microscopic camera in the bathroom and recorded the plaintiff whilst she was naked in the bathroom (showering, changing, cleaning, etc.). The plaintiff also discovered that the defendant had uploaded these recordings, along with a photograph of her face, to a pornographic website and had made a profit from the uploads.  

 

This type of proceeding/claim is the first of its kind to come before the civil court in England and Wales. Whilst this judgement originates from the United Kingdom, the facts and findings are still considered relevant and noteworthy in Australia.  

 

In the criminal proceedings, the defendant was convicted of sexual offence charges and was given a two (2) year suspended sentence and was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for ten (10) years. 

 

The expert evidence in this case considered that there was a high likelihood of the photographs being replicated in the future, and the plaintiff’s knowledge of this and her knowledge that there were naked photographs of her on the internet available to the world caused the plaintiff to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  

 

The plaintiff advanced her civil claim as follows: 

  • the defendant intentionally exposed the plaintiff to a foreseeable risk of injury or severe distress resulting in personal injury;
  • the defendant’s conduct was an infringement of the plaintiff’s privacy; and
  • the defendant’s conduct was a breach of the plaintiff’s confidence (misuse of private information).  

 

The defendant did not defend the plaintiff’s civil claim, resulting in the Court ordering liability in favour of the plaintiff and, therefore, the claim proceeded as an assessment of damages only. The Court determined that the plaintiff was only eligible for general damages (pain and suffering) and special damages (past and future treatment expenses).   

 

When assessing quantum, the Court provided at [56]: 

The case of ABC and WH v Willock [2015] EWHC 2687 is the only case before me on quantum for the intentional infliction of injury, by way of sexual texting and the sending of indecent images (£31,970 on today’s figures). The breach of trust in ABC and WH v Willock [2015] EWHC 2687 may be said to be more serious (a highly vulnerable 16-year-old and a perpetrator 39 years her senior and a senior member of the school). However, the psychological impact is more severe in the present case. In addition, the misuse of information in the present case is considerably more serious. The claimant in ABC and WH v Willock [2015] EWHC 2687 had generated the images herself, with encouragement. There was no publication of the images. The Claimant in this case was not even aware that the images had been generated and the images were published on a pornographic site, alongside a photo of her face. 

 

Ultimately, the Court awarded the plaintiff £97,041.61 (equivalent to approximately $180,648.00 Australian Dollars) in damages, with £60,000.00 awarded for general damages (approximately $111,707.00 Australian Dollars) and £37,041.61 for special damages (approximately $69,975.00 Australian Dollars).  

 

We are specialist abuse lawyers and can help you receive acknowledgement, meaningful apology and financial resolution from those institutions and systems of power that failed to protect you from harm. If you would like advice in relation to a childhood or adult sexual, physical and/or psychological/emotional abuse claim in any jurisdiction in Australia, please reach out to the author, Emily Wright, at Littles Lawyers today. 

 

Further Abuse Law information and case law updates written by our Emily Wright can be found on our website.  

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