Woman struck after becoming frustrated that complainant did not speak English
A Trevallyn woman’s assault of a pregnant Afghan woman at the Tailrace Reserve had a degree of racial motive, a Launceston Magistrate found on Wednesday.
Magistrate Simon Brown was passing sentence on Melissa Jane Ielasi, 36, of Trevallyn who pleaded guilty to common assault on February 2, 2020.
Police prosecutor Jarrod Lightfoot said that the complainant was at the Tailrace with 35 members of the Afghan community having a picnic.
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He said that the complainant’s nine-year-old son threw a cherry which landed on the defendant’s nine-year-old daughter.
The girl went to her nearby home and told her mother who had been drinking.
Ielasi went to the park and sought out the mother of the boy who was sitting at a table to discuss the cherries and an incident involving her daughter’s bicycle.
“The complainant said she didn’t speak English this caused the defendant to become agitated and she struck her to the nose causing her nose to bleed profusely,” Mr Lightfoot said.
In a police interview Ielasi told police that she said to the complainant “have some respect while you are here we don’t basj kids in this country.”
Mr Lightfoot made a sentencing submission that there may have been a racial motive to the assault.
“The complainant was in full Afghani dress and once there was a perception she couldn’t speak English this infuriated the defendant and that was when she struck,” he said.
“This a bad example of common assault, totally unprovoked in a public place when the complainant was seated at a table,” he said.
Defence counsel Lucy Flanagan said that there was no racial motive whatsoever.
“She was angry about what her daughter told her,” she said.
She said Ielasi believed the complainant was attempting to avoid conversation by claiming she did not speak English.
Mr Brown said it was hard to escape the conclusion that racial issues did not play a part.
He said that a new section of the Sentencing Act introduced in 2017 allowed that account should be taken if racial factors could have motivated the crime to “any degree”.
“Mr Lightfoot’s submission is made out, you said ‘have some respect while you are here’ and I note that phrase,” he said.
“The complainant was in traditional Afghan dress and you became frustrated that she couldn’t speak English and struck her forcefully to the face,” he said.
“This was a really ugly episode that is aggravated by the fact that it happened in a public place in front of children.”
Mr Brown convicted Ielasi of assault and fined her $900.
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