Sacked paramedic's life 'upside-down'

Staff Reporters
May 23, 2008


A paramedic sacked after allegations of digital rape - of which he has been completely cleared - has spoken of the damage the affair has wreaked upon his life.

Simon Paul Howe, 33, was vindicated yesterday when a County Court jury found him not guilty of digitally raping and indecently assaulting a woman, 23, after she was ejected from city nightclub Bubble.

Today, Mr Howe said his life had been "turned upside down".

He said he was very happy with the court's decision and was determined to get his job back.

His partner had also been hurt by the stress of the situation, he said.

The ambulance union is fighting for Mr Howe's reinstatement to the Metropolitan Ambulance Service and is considering seeking a settlement if it does not occur.

It has also demanded State Government intervention and the sacking of the MAS's chief executive officer.

Mr Howe was controversially sacked a year ago over allegations he put his hand down a woman's pants as a trainee paramedic drove them to the Royal Melbourne hospital about 6am on November 5, 2006.

"I've declared my innocence throughout and today it's been proven in a court of law and justice has been served," he said after yesterday's decision.

At a press conference in North Melbourne this morning, he described the court case as a "very stressful situation".

He said he had no idea why he could not get his job back, but was determined to do so.

Ambulance Employees Australia state secretary Steve McGhie accused the MAS of continuing to treat Mr Howe "like a criminal".

"MAS are forcing Simon to go through the additional trauma of an unfair dismissal case. They should accept jury's decision and reinstate him immediately.

"He should also be compensated for lost wages and receive an immediate apology from the Metropolitan Ambulance Service, for being denied natural justice."

Mr McGhie described the MAS's grounds for dismissing Mr Howe as "spurious".

"At the time MAS said he should have filed an incident report, yet there was no policy requiring that of him," he said.

"They also said that his answers about the incident when interviewed by MAS were inconsistent. But he was unable to speak freely because his case before the court.

"This is a shameful face-saving exercise by Greg Sassella and MAS. They denied Simon natural justice and are now trying to avoid taking responsibility for that poor decision."

Mr McGhie has demanded the State Government intervene, and called for the sacking of MAS chief executive Greg Sassella.

"We call on the Health Minister, Daniel Andrews, to intervene and see that this innocent man gets his job back.

"We also call on the Health Minister to immediately remove CEO Greg Sassella from his position. We believe Sassella's position is now untenable.

"How can paramedics go about their work knowing that if a patient makes an accusation against them they might not be supported by management?"

"Paramedics have very stressful and demanding jobs, and they don't need this fear hanging over them every time they attend an emergency."A blood test conducted by police revealed the patient Mr Howe had been accused of assaulting was under the influence of amphetamines (speed), methamphetamines (ice), and GHB at the time.

She told the court she had snorted speed about 11.30pm the previous evening but believed her drink was spiked with other drugs. The woman said she was "out of it" after having the drink and had only a hazy recollection of what followed.

During the three-day trial, Peter Morrissey, for Howe, described the allegations as "weird" and said Mr Howe was trying to restrain the woman who was thrashing her legs and arms around and masturbating loudly throughout the ambulance ride and at the hospital.

Mr Howe was suspended after the woman reported the allegations to police and was sacked in February last year, sparking a bitter industrial row.

As the jury returned their verdict yesterday the court was jam-packed with Mr Howe's supporters - friends and colleagues who never doubted his innocence.

But Mr Howe now faces an uphill battle to be reinstated at the Metropolitan Ambulance Service.

Within an hour of the verdict being returned a Metropolitan Ambulance Spokeswoman, Christine Paterson, sent out a statement reaffirming the MAS position, that Mr Howe would not be given his job back.

"Simon Howe will not be reinstated to his former position as a paramedic with MAS, following today's court verdict," the statement said. "At the time of his dismissal, MAS made it clear that its decision to dismiss Mr Howe was entirely separate from upcoming court proceedings and was not based on his guilt or otherwise of criminal charges."

Mr Howe told The Age he would continue to fight for his job.

"As they've taken their stance I'll be fighting and there's no reason I shouldn't have my job back."

Mr McGhie said the union would support Mr Howe in taking the fight to the arbitration commission.

"We think we're on strong ground and we will fight this one out until we get his job back or we get some sort of settlement for Mr Howe."