Names can never hurt me?


Snapped in traffic and gone ape on another driver? No worries, just tell the judge that the nasty nasty driver called you a bad name.

A DARWIN man who grabbed a woman in a road rage attack has been let off because he thought he had been racially taunted. […]

But Mr Daye was cleared of the charge after the court found he had been provoked by allegedly being called “a black c…”. […]

Mr Daye’s girlfriend at the time, Vanessa Dunne, said she had heard Ms Baldwin say the words.

But Ms Baldwin told the court she had an Aboriginal friend in the back of the car and would never use the phrase.

She told the court she had said to Mr Daye “I’m doing the speed limit”.

“What’s your problem?”

In making a not guilty finding magistrate David Loadman said the important principle was that Mr Daye, who is of Burmese descent and dark skinned, believed that he had been insulted.

“Because he so believed that insult was made to him the issue of whether it was or whether it wasn’t is not critically important,” he said.

Mr Loadman found Mr Daye was entitled to the defence of provocation.

I didn’t realise that there was any jurisdiction where “provocation” was considered a defence for assault. It’s one step away from “she asked for it the mouthy bitch” in domestic violence cases, or “he looked at me funny” in a pub brawl, or the infamous “gay panic” defence in certain murder cases.

Words do have the power to wound. Racial vilification is quite rightly being increasingly regarded as an unacceptable slur, an old-fashioned colonialist habit that we are encouraged to shed just as we ought to shed sexist and homophobic slurs and work to root out stem and branch the underlying attitudes that they reflect.

But words are not acts. To yell something hateful is not the same as a physical attack, and should never be used to justify physical violence against another.

Upholding the defense of provocation when accused of assault may well be the law as it stands in the NT, but I think that that law sucks.



Categories: language, law & order, violence

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