‘Lan­guage bar­rier no ex­cuse’


AN in­ter­preter was re­quired at the Proser­pine Mag­is­trate’s Court this week for a Chi­nese woman ac­cused of ob­struct­ing po­lice in front of chil­dren on their way to school.

Man­darin-speak­ing Xue­mei Chen was asked how she pleaded to the charge by a Mr Lu, who as­sisted her in court by tele­phone.

She ini­tially replied in English, us­ing the words ‘ok’ and ‘thanks’.

“So he’s talk­ing Man­darin, you’re talk­ing English – what’s go­ing on?” mag­is­trate Haydn St­jern­qvist asked.

Chen’s “lan­guage bar­rier” was ac­tu­ally de­scribed as in some way con­tribut­ing to the of­fence of Jan­uary 27.

On this day po­lice were pa­trolling school zones in Proser­pine when they saw Chen com­mit a traf­fic of­fence and pulled her over around the cor­ner from the high school.

Po­lice pros­e­cu­tor El­iz­a­beth Smith said Chen, who was with her daugh­ter at the time, be­came “ex­tremely an­gry” when is­sued with an in­fringe­ment no­tice.

Ac­cord­ing to Ms Smith, Chen be­gan wav­ing her arms and yelling at po­lice, who tried to calm her down due to the pres­ence of school chil­dren who had stopped to watch.

Ms Smith said Chen tore up the in­fringe­ment no­tice and threw it at po­lice. She also ran in front of the po­lice car block­ing their at­tempts to leave.

Duty lawyer Lach­lan Ygoa-McKe­own said the 47-year-old was “quite up­set” due to some con­fu­sion with a ‘lolly-pop per­son’ at the cross­ing.

He said the whole in­ci­dent “ul­ti­mately stems out of mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion due to lan­guage bar­ri­ers”.

“And whilst not ex­cus­ing the be­hav­iour it goes some way to­wards ex­plain­ing it.”

Mag­is­trate Haydn St­jern­qvist said he didn’t buy this ex­cuse.

“She can’t be that per­plexed about a marked po­lice car with uni­formed of­fi­cers writ­ing out a ticket to give her,” he said.

“There’s no other way to put this – this was ab­so­lutely dis­grace­ful be­hav­iour in front of a school, in front of school chil­dren and in front of her daugh­ter.”

Mr St­jern­qvist also had some­thing to say about Mr Ygoa-McKe­own’s pleas for no con­vic­tion to be recorded due to Chen want­ing to be­come an Aus­tralian cit­i­zen.

“If she wants to be a cit­i­zen of Australia she’s go­ing to have to quickly work out what it is po­lice do and com­ply with their re­quests in the fu­ture,” he said.

Chen was fined $550 but the con­vic­tion was not recorded.

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