‘WA court dismisses charges over racial insult’
AM – Friday, 15 September, 2006
Reporter: David Weber
TONY EASTLEY: In Western Australia the Attorney-General Jim McGinty has endorsed a court’s decision to dismiss a racial vilification charge against an Aboriginal teenager.
The Kalgoorlie Children’s Court dismissed charges against the 16-year-old girl, who allegedly called a Caucasian woman a “white slut”, among other things, as she attacked her in the street.
The Magistrate hearing the case found the remarks were made but she said racial vilification laws were intended to deal with severe abuse, and not petty name-calling.
Jim McGinty supports the decision, saying Kalgoorlie police were wrong to proceed with the racial vilification case.
David Weber reports.
DAVID WEBER: The girl had pleaded guilty to the assault charge and the Magistrate handed down a four-month intensive supervision order. But Magistrate Kate Auty said the racial slur was not substantial enough to be punished under racial vilification laws.
Penalties under the laws were substantially increased after a spate of racist graffiti attacks in Perth. The graffiti targeted Jewish, Chinese and African people and it was attributed to the Australian Nationalists Movement.
[And the persons responsible? Damon Paul Blaxall, Daniel Tyrone Klavins, Frank James Lemin, Shannon Mark Post, and Ben Weerheym.]
In this case, the maximum penalty available was six-month’s detention…
DAVID WEBER: Melissa Blackney was the woman who was assaulted. She’d told the court she likened the Aboriginal girl’s comments to schoolyard insults. She said she was concerned about the physical assault, not the verbal one, and that’s why she went to the police.
But the prosecutor Amanda Forrester says the victim doesn’t need to hear racial abuse, or even be offended by it, for someone to be charged.
AMANDA FORRESTER: One would understand that the complainant might not have necessarily been upset before she was assaulted but when she’s on the ground and racial slurs are being used while she’s being kicked that, I would have thought, would have been an entirely different story to most people.
If she’d heard those particular insults while she was being assaulted, one might think that she would have taken them slightly more seriously.
DAVID WEBER: The person involved doesn’t have to hear them?
AMANDA FORRESTER: Well our case was certainly that. This is new legislation and it hasn’t been tested in any other case that we’re aware of and the fact is that in this case it hasn’t been tested either because the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the facts which it said based the charge.
DAVID WEBER: Was this charge brought for the intention of this being a test case?
AMANDA FORRESTER: No.
[Although, having never previously been enforced, it was, by definition, a test case!]
DAVID WEBER: This decision has been welcomed by the Aboriginal Legal Service.
DENNIS EGGINGTON: For a person who is ethnically or culturally different [that is, from the white norm, presumably], that suffers some serious or substantial abuse or is severely ridiculed, is a different thing altogether and we always thought this was a case of a little bit of aggro, [a] bit of name calling and it wasn’t the right one to bring to court and it seems that we were right in that assumption…