A civil lawsuit directed towards a former Red Barn manager Matthew Schwabe has been cleared to move forward by a Supreme Court judge after stalling in 2018.

The case went on hiatus after defendant Schwabe filed for bankruptcy last year, but provincial judge B.D. MacKenzie says that his “very minor debt” of $4,484 should not protect him from liability for the lawsuit that accuses him of the unrelated voyeuristic crimes.

Back in January 2018, two former Red Barn Market employees laid charges against Schwabe, accusing him of filming them in the bathroom and uploading the videos to a “revenge porn” website with attached links to their social media profiles.

The plaintiffs were made aware of the videos after Saanich Police contacted them in February 2016. Through police, one of the plaintiffs was able to identify six other young women from videos that Schwabe allegedly recorded, including five other red barn employees and Schwabe’s former roommate.

Together, the two original plaintiffs are seeking a class-action lawsuit.

Prior arrests

Back in the summer of 2016, Saanich Police arrested Schwabe for voyeurism and publication of intimate images without consent. A search of his his home also resulted in the seizure of electronics from his residence.

While the grocery store manager was arrested, he was not charged, and at the time he was released on a no-contact undertaking (similar to a restraining order).

The 2016 search is what lead police to contacting the original two plaintiffs. According to them, a criminal investigation is still ongoing.

Besides allowing the case to move forward, presiding judge MacKenzie is also ordering a disclosure of documents, recordings, and images in the possession of Saanich Police to be used in this civil case.

“…I am persuaded that some documents that meet this description not only exist, but are within the possession or control of the Saanich Police, and that those documents are undoubtedly relevant to the plaintiffs’ action,” he said.

Bankruptcy will not count as a defense

In April 2018, three months after the women laid their civil claim, Schwabe filed for bankruptcy, resulting in a stay of proceedings for the case.

His bankruptcy paperwork listed five liabilities, $0 debts to each of the plaintiffs and their law firm, and two bank debts that totalled at $4,484.4 with a monthly deficit of $50.72.

Since then, the Supreme Court has reviewed the claims and Judge B.D. MacKenzie ruled that the “very minor” debt that Schwabe has found himself in does not constitute an “honest unfortunate”.

“…The very minor financial difficulty in which Mr. Schwabe found himself when he decided to file for bankruptcy three months after the plaintiffs filed their claim leads me to conclude that he is not an “honest unfortunate” who should be “rewarded … by a release of liability” if he is found to be responsible for capturing and disseminating the explicit images at issue,” MacKenzie said in his ruling report.

While Schwabe has admitted in court that he was arrested and his home was searched in 2016, he argues that the women haven’t proven that he is responsible for taking and distributing the illicit images in question, and claims that the evidence provided to them by police is inadmissible hearsay.

This civil claim has yet to be certified as a class-action lawsuit and none of the allegations have been proven. The process is ongoing.