Singaporean to get $15k payout in Australia race abuse case

Australian court finds lawyer's tirade against S'porean to be racist

A Singaporean security officer is in line for a five-figure compensation payout after he was racially abused in Australia.

Mr R. Kanapathy, 55, was branded "a Singaporean p***k", accused of having "short man syndrome" and told to go back where he came from, during the rant by a female lawyer.

He will now receive A$12,500 (S$14,600) after an Australian court found that her tirade was racist because it was linked to his country of origin.

The argument broke out in 2009 after the lawyer Megan Maree in de Braekt refused to be searched before entering the Central Law Courts building in Perth.

When the security officer told her to comply or leave, she began to swear at him.

Ms de Braekt - who was said to have a history of abusing officers - later allowed herself to be searched.

But she continued to insult Mr Kanapathy as she walked away.

The married security officer - who spent 13 years in the Singapore Armed Forces - was so upset he had to seek medical treatment which has cost him up to A$3,000 over the last four years.

Mr Kanapathy testified that he felt humiliated and hurt as the lawyer made her remarks in a raised voice and there were several other security officers and members of the public present.

Ms de Braekt denied the claims and "bitterly contested" the civil proceedings. However, she was found liable last week.

"This case was not one of an inappropriate racist workplace joke," wrote Judge Toni Lucev in his judgment grounds. "Rather it is a case of a person abused in a public place whilst carrying out duties assigned to ensure public safety and protection of a court building."

The court said that the fact it happened in public made the lawyer's conduct "particularly egregious".

It pointed out that the man on the receiving end was a security officer who was protecting court officials, lawyers and other members of society.

"The abuse fell from a particular kind of person, a legal practitioner, for whom conduct which is both unlawful and lacking in civility should be alien," said Judge Lucev.

He made clear the words used offended and insulted the victim.

For example, he pointed out that the dictionary defined "p***k" as a stupid and contemptible person.

The abuse also breached the Racial Discrimination Act as Ms de Braekt had linked the words to Singapore, the victim's country of origin.

The judge said it was no defence that she had abused him because she did not want to undergo the security check.

He ordered her to pay the A$12,500 in compensation and for Mr Kanapathy's medical bills by Oct 23. Ms de Braekt has been struck off the rolls of the Western Australia state for misconduct.

The court said that Mr Kanapathy's lawyer had not pursued a demand for her to apologise, adding that she was unlikely to say sorry.

But it added: "There is no doubt that morally Mr Kanapathy deserves an apology from Ms de Braekt."

For practical reasons, the court also declined to order her to attend an anti-racism training course.

The case was initially heard before the Australian Human Rights Commission which discontinued the hearings in 2010 after it found there was no prospect of the matter being settled amicably.