Swastikas and other racist symbols painted on Jewish graves in Auckland can never be fully removed and will serve as a constant reminder of the pain and suffering of the holocaust, a religious leader says.
Robert Moulden was sentenced to 320 hours of community work, nine months of supervision and ordered to pay $3000 in reparations when he appeared at the Auckland District Court today.
The 20-year-old turned towards the wall in the dock as Judge Russell Collins sentenced him for one charge of wilful damage.
"What you did here meets the definition of a hate crime," Judge Collins said.
The court heard how Moulden and a friend had been drinking before they went to the Jewish cemetery on Auckland's Karangahape Rd last October and spray-painted swastika symbols as well as the numbers 88.
Judge Collins said the eighth number in the alphabet is "H" and 88 can be inferred to mean heil Hitler.
The pair also painted obscenities.
Photos of the graffiti were sent to members of the media.
Judge Collins said he took into account Moulden's age, his previous clean record and his early guilty plea.
He also considered a Restorative Justice conference that Moulden took part in with members of the Auckland Jewish community.
The judge said some members of the community had lost loved ones in the holocaust and endured "enormous pain" as a result of Moulden's graffiti.
He said it was admirable that some members of the Jewish community had offered to help Moulden get an education and improve his life.
"One of them has invited you into his home to celebrate a religious ceremony ... and to your credit, you took that opportunity."
Judge Collins recognised that Moulden had been subjected to media attention but he said it was right that the matter was given publicity.
Outside court the co-president of the Auckland Jewish Council Geoff Levy said the damage caused by Moulden can never be undone and the "ghosting" of the images will always be there.
"What it means is that the great killers of the Jewish people throughout the world have had their names imposed on our gravestones. That is an insult and a desecration."
Mr Levy said some of the graves damaged by Moulden date to the 1860s and while a report has been commissioned by the Auckland Council, it is still not known what can be done to fix them.
Police say the total cost of the damage is more than $27,000.