A SOUTHPORT magistrate has found the terms 'sandnigger' and 'nigger' are not offensive to a reasonable person.
Magistrate Michael O'Driscoll made the ruling yesterday when he dismissed a case against a Gold Coast retiree charged with sending an offensive facsimile to a local politician.
A staff member working for Broadwater MP Peta-Kaye Croft complained to police after receiving the document from 62-year-old Denis Mulheron of Labrador on June 30 last year.
Christie Turner, 28, told Southport Magistrates Court she was deeply offended when she read the one-page fax which called on the Labor Party to tighten immigration laws against 'niggers' and 'sandnigger terrorists' and Muslim women with circumcised genitals. The fax also made reference to indigenous Australians as 'Abos'.
Mr Mulheron told the court he believed he was using 'everyday English' in the fax.
He said he had grown up with the slang terms for Arabs and black Africans and did not believe they were offensive.
"I'm not a member of the cafe, chardonnay and socialist set ... to me that is everyday language," he said. He argued in court the slang terms were no different to calling a New Zealander a 'Kiwi' or an American a 'Yank'. Barrister Chris Rosser said his client had been raised in a different time when the words were not as frowned upon.
Ms Turner said to her, as a young woman, Mr Mulheron's words were both offensive and disturbing.
"There are appropriate ways to express opinions about immigration policies and this was not one of them," she said.
Mr Mulheron was charged with using a carriage service, namely a fax machine, to menace, harass or offend -- a offence which carries a maximum penalty of three years jail.
After lengthy consideration, Mr O'Driscoll ruled that Mr Mulheron's words were not enough to invoke criminal sanctions. "The words used were crude, unattractive and direct but were not offensive to a reasonable person," he said. But he made it clear the court in no way condoned Mr Mulheron's comments.
He invited Mr Mulheron to seek legal advice before using the terms in a public forum again.
The court was told that over the years Mr Mulheron had sent repeated faxes to Ms Croft's office complaining about the Labor Party, immigration and land taxes. He pleaded guilty in 2006 to sending a personally abusive fax to Ms Croft.
So... what was this judge thinking?
He said, "The words used were crude, unattractive and direct but were not offensive to a reasonable person."
Umm... define "reasonable person". And what colour is this reasonable person? And has this reasonable person somehow missed a century's worth of changing racial attitudes?
Here is a good way to test out whether indeed those words are not offensive: walk up to a group of black or brown people and call them all "niggers". Then repeat the same with a group of Middle Eastern people and use the term "sand-nigger". What do you expect the reaction would be? If those people got offended, would that mean they were not "reasonable" people?
Now I'm not saying Denis Mulheron (pictured here) should have been facing jail time for his comments. But for anyone to seriously argue that those words are not offensive indicates they are either pulling a fast one, or just completely stupid. Or both.
No one who has ever heard those words would seriously be under the impression that they are acceptable "everyday language". And I would go so far as to say that it is insulting to the average working-class person to infer that only a "member of the cafe, chardonnay and socialist set" would find those words offensive.
But surely Denis Mulheron is just one bitter and twisted old bloke, right? It's not like his repugnant views are shared by the rest of the community, right?
On second thought, maybe they are. These are some of the reader comments attached to the article on the website:
I'm a redhead and since a kid have been subject to a brand of racism ie 'Ranga, ginger nuts, blood nut' etc. So where do I stand? Mr Mulheron is just using language that was acceptable until political correctness arrived. But apparently it is still permissable to call me any of the names I listed.
Posted by: David of Tweed 8:26am Tuesday
Comment 64 of 64
The magistrate is correct, a reasonable person would not be offended by direct language. The thought police were properly put back into their little box. Everyone has a right to express an opinion without the fear of criminal sanction just because someone else is 'offended'. I grew up in an era when we used the terms 'wog', 'Reffo', 'coon', 'boong' and far worse. Many of us still use these terms and will continue to do so despite the purveyors of political correctness.
Posted by: Richard of NSW 12:27pm Tuesday
Comment 43 of 64
Political correctness has gone way to far in Australia - it's about time Australia allowed more freedom of speech . Denis is just saying what many Australians think however do not have the courage to verbalise their thoughts.
Posted by: Nathan of Melbourne 12:38pm Tuesday
Comment 38 of 64
These are some comments on the article at the Courier-Mail website: