20 OCTOBER 2011
Report in The Southern Star Observer:
Hate crime sentence to be appealed
Victoria Police may appeal a three-month suspended sentence handed to a Melbourne man for his part in a violent gay bashing on Sydney Rd last year.
The man, Billal Ali, was also fined $1500 and placed on a 12-month community-based order for the brutal attack which left a gay couple with bruising, cuts and one victim with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The incident occurred at 9.30pm on Christmas night 2010 when Ali and his cousin Houssain El Halabi, from a car, approached the two men who were holding hands.
Ali and El Halabi hurled homophobic abuse at the couple and Ali threw a bottle at the head of one of the victims before the two offenders set upon the pair, chasing them down and viciously kicking and punching them.
Two of Ali’s brothers, Haydar and Barry, later arrived at the scene and joined in the attack. The three Ali brothers were sentenced in the Sunshine Magistrates’ Court on Monday. Haydar Ali received a 12-month community-based order and was fined $1500 for his part in the attack.
Barry Ali was fined $1500.
In 2009 Victorian sentencing laws were amended to require judges to take into account crime motivated by hate or prejudice when handing down a sentence.
Magistrate Peter Mellas told the court he was satisfied, given the evidence, the victims had come to Billal Ali’s attention because of their sexual orientation.
However, in sentencing Haydar and Barry Ali, Mellas said he could not prove beyond reasonable doubt the pair were specifically motivated by prejudice in the attack.
Mellas rejected Billal Ali’s use of steroids, said to have given him ‘roid rage’, as an excuse for the attack.
El Halabi did not show up at the court for sentencing and a warrant for his arrest was issued. Victoria Police prosecutor Danielle Pastoors said an appeal will be lodged with the Office of Police Prosecutions (OPP) in the coming days to challenge the leniency of the sentence in line with changes to Victoria’s hate-crime sentencing laws.
Victoria Police launched its first-ever strategy to combat prejudice-motivated crime earlier this year to train police to better respond to hate-motivated crime.
The case is thought to be one of the first to test the state’s new sentencing laws on homophobic-motivated crime.
Anti-Violence Project Victoria convenor Greg Adkins told the Star Observer the outcome of the case does not clearly demonstrate that changes to sentencing laws are having an effect.
“It may take this case moving to a higher court before the gay and lesbian community can see the evidence that the prejudice motivation provision in sentencing is truly in operation,” he said.