The ACT Commissioner for Fair Trading has been ordered to pay nearly $47,000 in damages after discriminating against an aspiring car salesman over his "irrelevant" history of road rage.
Decisions published by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal show that the convicted criminal sued the commissioner, claiming "unlawful discrimination" after his 2018 application for a motor vehicle sales licence was rejected.
A delegate of the commissioner turned it down because of the applicant's convictions for property damage and common assault, with the latter charge still the subject of a good behaviour order at the time of his application.
The convictions stemmed from two separate road rage incidents in 2016, when the man threw a hammer into the windscreen of one driver's car and spat in the face of another motorist.
The would-be motor trader, who is not identified in the tribunal's decisions, argued that those convictions should have been irrelevant in determining his licence application.
He told Access Canberra staff that his physical and mental health had been deteriorating around the time of his offending because of a permanent back injury.
He said he was "a law-abiding citizen" who had now been branded a criminal because of incidents "plainly triggered by the cocktail of negative events".
"I have addressed my issues, focused on rebuilding myself and not fixating on the stigma of the criminal records against my name as a means of failure," he wrote in an email prior to the application being refused.
When the ACT government disagreed and the man sued, it was left to tribunal presidential member Heidi Robinson to determine the issue.
In the first of two decisions, Ms Robinson said the offences were relatively recent, involved driving and occurred in the context of "dealing with difficult people", which the man might have to do as a vehicle salesman.
"However, I am not satisfied that the mere fact that the applicant has the convictions gives rise to a reasonable basis for reaching the conclusion that ... he has a propensity for violence or that he presents a greater risk to consumers," Ms Robinson wrote.
"I am satisfied that there is no direct link between the circumstances of the offences and a risk to the public interest in consumer protection or public safety."
She went on to say that the Discrimination Act made clear that "a person's criminal conviction should not hound them for their whole life".
"[Convictions should not] keep them out of employment, or cause them to be subject to discrimination or disconnected from employment, other aspects of public life, or the chance to earn money," Ms Robinson said.
Following that April 2020 finding, the matter returned to the tribunal earlier this month for a decision on remedies.
Ms Robinson ultimately ordered the commissioner to pay the man $15,000 in general damages, $29,600 for lost potential income and $2166.31 in interest.
She also said that the commissioner "must not repeat the unlawful act of taking into account the applicant's irrelevant criminal record in any future application made by [the man] for a motor vehicle dealer's licence".