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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 16:49 GMT
Gay taunts 'led to breakdown'
BBC court graphic
A married man suffered a nervous breakdown after being taunted with homosexual nicknames by work colleagues, a court has been told.

Heterosexual John Weatherstone, 42, was taunted by colleagues at the warehouse in Sunderland, where he worked, up to 30 times a day.

Mr Weatherstone is claiming damages against his employer, Homeworthys.

He told Newcastle County Court some people would describe his behaviour as camp, but said the treatment he received from some colleagues could be classed as bullying and harassment.

Crude drawing

Christopher Makey, for the claimant, told Judge Tony Lancaster that Mr Weatherstone's lunchbox was defaced and a homophobic poem was scrawled on the toilet wall.

A crude drawing of two men having sex was was also scrawled on a work surface.

Mr Makey said the employers failed to stop Mr Weatherstone from being abused.

Mr Weatherstone, who has a daughter and a stepson, left the company in October 1998 after working there for 18 months.

'Playing up'

Mr Makey said: "In these circumstances it was not surprising that the claimant developed a psychological illness."

Under cross-examination by Mark Turner QC, Mr Weatherstone said he did call a friend at work "treasure" although he did not remember blowing him kisses.

Mr Turner replied: "Any witness to that sort of play could be forgiven for thinking you were playing up to the image that you were homosexual even if you were not."

Mr Weatherstone said his colleagues should not have used homophobic insults.

The case is expected to last three days.


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