Court rejects trash collector’s appeal against $2,000 fine
A trash collector who slapped a foul-mouthed schoolgirl after she insulted his job and his mother lost an appeal against a $2,000 fine.
Chief Justice Richard Ground said former Corporation of Hamilton worker Michael Pond “should have been able to take a little verbal abuse” from the 16-year-old without resorting to violence.
The case hit the headlines last August when Pond, now 44, lost his job and ended up in court. He admitted assaulting the girl “in the heat of the moment”, causing her a cut lip.
He told Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner he felt disrespected by the girl, and said: “We were working and she walked across the back of the trash truck with her friends and said the 'trash truck stinks and you stink'. I said 'young girl, watch your mouth'. She said 'your momma's p****y stinks like the trash truck'.”
He admitted striking the girl with an open hand after she continued to taunt him and ignored his warnings to watch her language.
He told police at the time: “I just lost it; these young people are too rude”. The Magistrate fined him, commenting: “People nowadays can't even hit their own children when they are rude and disrespectful so we have to stop this cycle of violence.”
Community activists launched an appeal on Pond's behalf after publicity surrounding the case. Cash poured in from as far afield as the United States and Australia after a Facebook campaign spread word of his plight.
During Pond's appeal, lawyer Larry Mussenden said he had no lawyer during the original court case and, if he had, a pre-sentence report would have been requested.
Mr Mussenden said a report could have recommended a conditional discharge, which would have been more suitable, since it would not have recorded a conviction against the defendant.
He added Pond had no previous convictions, pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, showed remorse for his actions, and lost his job as a result of the incident. He added that the conviction would affect his ability to seek future employment.
Mr Mussenden said of the girl: “She was the one that began the confrontation as he was going about his business. He told her to stop several times, and the language she used was rude, offensive and abusive.”
He cited other cases where assaults have been punished by conditional discharges and absolute discharges rather than fines. They included that of British mechanical engineer Richard Brown who delivered a sucker-punch to fellow expatriate Matthew Claridge in Docksider's bar in 2010.
The victim lost two teeth and suffered a cut head, but Brown walked free from court with a conditional discharge after voluntarily paying $27,000 to the victim for pain and distress. He then left the Island.
However, prosecutor Tawana Tannock said Pond's punishment was not excessive, and pointed out that he could have been jailed for up to two years. She said the Supreme Court should not interfere with the decision of the Magistrate, adding that the case was extraordinary due to the age difference between the perpetrator and victim.
“She was a child; 16 years of age and still a child under the Children's Act. Mr Pond was 43 years of age; a man who not only engaged in a verbal dispute with a child but became so inflamed that he slapped her, causing a cut to her lip which can indicate that it was not a gentle slap,” said Ms Tannock.
She added: “Children have a right not only to be protected at home but in public.”–Chief Justice Richard Ground replied: “Well, they cannot go around saying things like this.”
However, dismissing the appeal, he said: “This was obviously a case which attracted press interest at the time. Strong views were expressed on both sides, and there are members of the public who felt Mr Pond had been hard done by.
“But the law entrusted the sentencing decision to the learned Magistrate and Ms Tannock is right when she says that as a matter of law, this court should only intervene if the Magistrate went wrong in principle. It's not whether this court would have done something different, and I can see nothing in the circumstances or the facts of this case to show that he did go wrong in principle.”
He added: “Although I think everyone would think that this child behaved badly in using the language that she did, that did not, in my view, and in the view of the learned Magistrate, justify a physical attack on her by a man aged 43.
“According to her statement he left the truck and crossed the road and struck her. He should have exercised a degree of restraint and realised this was a little girl and should have been able to take a little verbal abuse from her.”
Pond, from Devonshire, who is now working for the Post Office, declined to comment as he left court. Mr Mussenden said the outcome of the appeal was “unfortunate” but Pond “will move on with his life”.