An Australian magistrate has reprimanded a man who threatened to torch a Muslim woman’s hijab with a lighter, labelling his behaviour “offensive” and “anti-social”.
Dominic James Proberts, 44 of Windsor, was fined $500 in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday for assaulting a woman outside the Boundary Hotel at West End in September.
Magistrate John McGrath called the unprovoked attack intolerant and frightening.
“Your behaviour was so offensive and so anti-social that not only was it an attack on this particular complainant, but on all those who seek to follow the religion and dress in this way,” he said.
Proberts erratically sprinted from the court down Roma St after the hearing, with a jacket over his head.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Cheryl Sayer said two women left the Indonesian Islamic Society of Brisbane centre together wearing a hijab that covered their heads, neck and shoulders around 1.30pm on September 6.
She said the women walked along Boundary St at West End when they were accosted by Proberts outside the Boundary Hotel.
Sgt Sayer said Proberts leant forward to one of the woman and extended a cigarette lighter near to her face, saying “I want to burn your f***ing scarf”.
She said the women became frightened and looked to another man who was walking out of the hotel for help.
But Sgt Sayer said that man offered the women little comfort, instead walking past them and uttering the word: “Terrorist.”
She said the women left the front of the hotel and made a complaint to police.
Sgt Sayer said police identified Proberts from CCTV footage and he went back to Dutton Park Police Station with police at 2.50pm on October 4.
She said Proberts told police it was a stupid thing to do and he was remorseful.
Defence lawyer Rob Martin said his client was very remorseful and embarrassed.
He said his client was drinking a beer after work with colleagues at the hotel and they talked about “the world climate”, including the state of affairs in the Middle East.
Mr Martin said Proberts was having a cigarette when he saw the women and made a “throwaway comment”.
“He meant no harm and he regrets the incident as he has many Muslim friends who he has met over the years in the building industry,” he said.
Mr Martin said his client was regretful and realised it was a stupid thing to do.
He said Proberts was a landscaper who had family support and now realised he made an error of judgment.
Mr Martin asked Mr McGrath to impose a good-behaviour bond and not to record a conviction against Proberts.
Mr McGrath said it was “quaint” Proberts told investigating police he did not mean to harm the women.
“What you did by its very nature would have frightened these people and therefore in my view would have caused them some significant harm,” he said.
“What your behaviour demonstrates to me quite clearly is a complete absence of tolerance and the right of another to practise their religious beliefs.”
He fined Proberts $500 and recorded a criminal conviction against him.
“I’m of the opinion that is appropriate that a conviction be recorded,” Mr McGrath said.