An Eketahuna man who confronted a gay couple on the town's main street, called them poofters and accused them of spreading Aids was yesterday convicted of using offensive language.
Adrian Strange appeared before Judge Bill Hastings in Masterton District Court yesterday and represented himself.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Jodie Lawrence said on January 13 Strange had crossed the street to confront the two men who had been talking with three others and used the insulting words.
According to police, he had said "you've got Aids" and "you're a poofter", leaving them angry and upset.
Both the men who were targets of Strange's remarks were granted name suppression, but in evidence both said they have had previous encounters with Strange and simply wanted him to leave them alone.
In evidence, Constable Donna Olliver said after receiving a complaint, she had approached Strange and, on the day after the street incident, had spent half an hour with him during which he claimed he had been "antagonised" by one of the men in the past.
Ms Olliver said Strange had spoken of "sinners" and about people who lead "dangerous lives".
Strange chose not to enter the witness box and give evidence on his own behalf, but in comments made during the proceedings he claimed expecting justice in New Zealand "is just a fantasy".
Judge Hastings said under the Bill of Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of expression but that was "not absolute" and was subject to reasonable limits. He said for the offence Strange was accused of committing to be upheld, it was necessary to establish that at the time, the place and in the manner of using the words, public order would have been disturbed.
That, the judge said, was "very clearly" the case.
"The words you used were offensive and homophobic and, as such, undermined the simple values New Zealand cherishes. They were used in the middle of the day in a public street and would have disturbed the public order of Eketahuna on that day."
Judge Hastings said Strange had a conviction for disorderly behaviour in 2006 and a "quite extensive history" before that dating back to 1978.
He said there was a need to deter others and to protect the community "from you and people like you".
Judge Hastings said there were no mitigating circumstances for him to consider and fined Strange $400 and ordered him to pay court costs of $130.
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