The two before-pictures who were filmed physically assaulting an elderly man and verbally assaulting other passengers, including a pregnant woman, have had their
first of many days in court.
Future reality television contestants Lana Janet Watmough (21) and her 17 year old companion, who are actually both from NSW, were today up on assault and public nuisance charges at Southport Magistrates Court after handing themselves into police less than 24 hours after the video appeared online. The victim, 77 year old Paul Buttigieg also from NSW, came forward yesterday to press charges after the pair hit, kicked and spewed racially tinged vilification out at him.
One of the girls being led away. Serious assault charges carry a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
Watmough was granted bail whilst the other young ‘lady’ is yet to decide whether she will apply for bail (according to her lawyer the decision will be made after she has spoken to her parents); both will return to court on the 23rd of April.
Acting Superintendent Brian Swan yesterday gave the media an update on the victim, Mr. Buttigieg, saying he was obviously shaken, has some bruising on his arms from the “abhorrent” attack and that actually “The victim actually doesn’t identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. However it is concerning that the alleged [attackers] perceived that he was.”
Dr Tim Soutphommasane, race discrimination commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission has praised the 13 year old girl who filmed the incident and handed footage into police, noting that otherwise it would have been unlikely the police could have followed up on the assault. “It is worth commending her intervention in filming the incident and coming forward. It’s an example of how there is more than one way you can stand up to racism,” he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the bus company Surfside Buslines told Guardian Australia that the driver did, in fact, pull over as soon as he could: “The fastest way to mitigate [a situation] … is to first and foremost stop the bus. He had over 20 passengers on board and he immediately identified the safest stopping point.” Of the claim made by passengers that the driver didn’t inquire after the well-being of the victim, the spokesperson said: “We certainly have footage that shows the driver did turn around to check on him.”
As it turns out, the very same bus company Surfside Buslines is currently assisting Bond University in their Australian-first research project seeking to address the issue of violence on buses. The $100k Enterprise Connect Researchers in Business program supported project, also in conjunction with the Transport Workers Union (TWU), Queensland Bus Industry Council, and TransLink aims to improve the reporting of incidents ‘with the ultimate goal of improving design features to increase bus driver safety, customer satisfaction and industry efficiencies.’
A recent survery by the TWU found that 27 per cent of bus drivers had witnessed a passenger being assaulted and more than one in 10 drivers say they have been bashed whilst on the job. In a statement TWU State Secretary Peter Biagini said of the new study: “A study of this importance is long overdue not only in Queensland, but throughout Australia. A number of recent incidents have put the spotlight on violent attacks against bus drivers. The only way to reduce assaults is to first, understand them. Once you have that insight you are then able to tailor your resources and design counter measures to combat the problem.”
Aussies as a whole seem to have rallied together to condemn the behaviour and the attitudes that have spawned it, which hopefully will serve as a reminder to any hopped-up bogans who think acting thus towards fell humans is in any way acceptable. To them Australia says: