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Written by Peter Carter

March 23, 2022

The former owner of a suburban Sydney cinema has been hit with a second million-dollar compensation order for underage sex abuse of a male employee in the 1980s.

Darren Lewis – then 14 yrs – was recruited by Philip Doyle to work at the Kogarah Mecca Cinema in April 1986.

On August 6 that year, a record 327mm of rain fell in Sydney within a 24-hour period causing chaos, flood, and killing five people.

Flooded roads prevented Darren’s parents from collecting him at the cinema after work resulting in an offer from Doyle that he spend the night at his San Souci residence.

Once there, Doyle manipulated the youth into a situation where it became clear he was expected to engage in sex acts in Doyle’s only bed, the shock of which froze him in terror while he complied with the predator’s requests.

The boy was prevailed upon on three further occasions that year and another in September 1987.

Darren’s description of the change that the encounters had brought about was that he “started to become a different person, felt dirty and disgusted with himself and carried shame”. He “had nothing good to offer anyone as a friend or person” and would “only be valued if he was being taken advantage of”.

He left his job at the cinema in 1987 and as attested to by his parents and school friend Kerry Baird – whom he married in 1993 and then separated from in 2005 – became withdrawn and began experimenting with drugs.

Darren did not seek treatment for his depressed mood or alcohol & cannabis addiction until after he provided a statement to Police in 2009.

His proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court – filed in 2015 – relied upon evidence from psychiatrist Richard Baker whose testimony was that the sexual assaults were a cause of Darren’s Persistent Depressive Disorder.

Baker and colleague Alex Apler agreed that other factors contributed to the condition including substance abuse, his bipolar disorder, his parents’ separation and a tragic accident which had befell his own son in 2009.

Justice David Davies accepted Darren’s accounts of four episodes but in relation to the fifth, ruled the evidence insufficient to conclude that any assault – as opposed to an attempt at solicitation – had actually occurred.

Rejecting the defence plea that the boy had been a willing partner, His Honour observed that it was never possible for a child to consent to sex and that his employee status – which Darren swore made him feel under ‘pressure’ – compelled a conclusion to the contrary.

Although there were many other stressors that may have played a part, the defendant had failed to discharge its onus of disentangling the assaults from them so as to exclude the assaults as a contributory cause.

His Honour was “entirely satisfied” the sexual assaults “substantially contributed to his condition” and were its “principal cause” not least because of the evidence from his extended family that pointed to a significant change in his behaviour at about the age of 15 and Dr Baker’s view that other life issues would not probably have led to a depressive order of a persistent nature.

General damages were awarded on a common law basis – as is allowed in NSW for sexual assault – at $400,000 and aggravated damages in the sum of $40,000.

Relying on evidence from Mark Thompson of Vincent’s – who postulated the financial loss from Darren’s lacklustre work history – Justice Davies ordered Doyle also pay $250,000 for past loss of income and $200,000 for future loss of earning capacity.

The total award in Darren’s favour of $1.36 million includes interest of $358,000.

This judgement comes just four months after Doyle was ordered to pay $1.27 million to Paul Miles for similar assaults in 1985 when he was employed at same the Kogarah theatre when aged 16.

Doyle was convicted of the assaults on Lewis in 2012 and sentenced to 3 years’ jail.

Lewis v Doyle [2022] NSWSC 92 Davies J, 18 February 2022 Read case

Categories: sexual abuse

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