11 October 2012 by Francesca Vella
Malta Gay Rights Movement coordinator Gabi Calleja said yesterday that the gay jibes court case involving a Mellieħa man who was let off with a slap on the wrist after trying to run down a drunk Australian sends a very negative message to any victim of violent crime.
“Irrespective of what the harassment was, the response was definitely not proportionate or justified,” said Ms Calleja in reaction to the fact that the Mellieħa man had taken the law into his own hands because he felt insulted by the Australian’s insinuation that he was gay.
Alan Gauci, 36, was conditionally discharged after magistrate Carol Peralta found him guilty of seriously injuring an Australian by driving at him and hitting him with his car.
The offence was committed on 21 March 2004 at 4.30am after the two had argued at Zep’s Bar in Mellieħa, shortly before.
Controversially, the thinking of society in Mellieħa played a part in the court’s deliberations. The Australian, Jeremy Lalic, had been noisy in the bar and was offending Mr Gauci, gesticulating behind his back, and giving the impression that Mr Gauci was homosexual and propositioning him. Mr Lalic had offended most of those in the bar, but especially Mr Gauci, the court heard.
When later Mr Gauci left for home, as he testified, he was boiling inside because of what had happened. He felt the Australian deserved to be hit by a car and as it happened, he espied Mr Lalic on the road and drove his car into him.
Medical doctor Andrew Mercieca, who examined Mr Lalic in the hospital’s emergency department, said the victim was inebriated. And eyewitnesses at the bar said Mr Lalic and his companion had been removed from the bar because they were offending everyone present, and were being noisy.
Magistrate Peralta, handing down sentence, said Mr Gauci lived in Mellieħa and in his mind had a reputation to defend there. The incident occurred in Mellieħa, in the presence of townspeople, and the insinuation that Mr Gauci was homosexual, which did not imply any wrong, could have been found to be unacceptable in the town.
Ms Calleja remarked: “We are appalled – a magistrate justifying homophobia certainly doesn’t send a positive message.”
Asked about the use of the word ‘gay’ or similar references in a derogatory way, she described the Australian’s behaviour as despicable; using the word ‘gay’ in a derogatory manner is damaging, lacking in sensitivity, and offensive. She added that any gay person would feel unsafe or demeaned, especially if he or she is struggling to come out.