CamdenNewJournal

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Teen sentenced over harassing same sex couple on bus in Camden

Judge says women were harassed because of 'who they were'

04 December, 2019 — By Samantha Booth

A picture shared after the incident of Christine Hannigan and Melania Ramirez

A 17-year-old has been sentenced over his role in harassing a same sex couple on a bus in Camden.

District Judge Susan Williams today decided the teenager’s actions including throwing coins at the couple were based on their sexual orientation, after he disputed this at a plea hearing yesterday (Thursday).

Two other boys, 15 and 16, also pleaded guilty to public order offences and will be sentenced next month.

Melania Ramirez, 28, and Christine Hannigan had been on a date when three of five boys approached them on the top deck of the N31 bus on May 30 at about 2am. The court heard they were being affectionate towards each other.

From behind a screen, Ms Hannigan told Highbury Youth Court today they were being asked “how lesbians have sex” and “show us”.

“It’s pretty intimidating to be physically cornered and have people make homophobic comments,” said Ms Hannigan, who pretended to be sick to diffuse the situation. She said she deals with “a lot of harassment in London”.

She said coins were being thrown at her so she said “throw another coin and see what happens.” “They were being extremely aggressive verbally and then they made it physical,” Ms Hannigan added.

In the bus’s CCTV, which has no audio, Ms Hannigan can be seen getting out of her seat and walking towards the back of the bus where she confronts the boy.

A scuffle took place and then the boys left the vehicle, with the 16-year-old admitting he also stole Ms Hannigan’s bag.

Lawyer David Wood, representing the 17-year-old, pointed out how in her first statement made shortly after the incident Ms Hannigan said one of the boys threw the first punch.

“When this was taken at the hospital I was still extremely distressed and I realised the details of it might not be accurate,” she said.

Ms Ramirez, speaking in court through an interpreter, said boys approached her and asked if they were lesbians and asked about what preferences in terms of sexual positions.

“And they also asked us to kiss so that they could see us doing some,” said Ms Ramirez, whose full name is Melania Geymonat Ramirez

The court heard how the 15-year-old boy did a scissoring gesture.

Ms Ramierz said: “It’s a sexual position but it’s also a pornographic fetish. It’s something typical or cliched people will say to you if they asking you if you are a lesbian.”

“I felt intimidated, hurt and humiliated,” said Ms Ramirez, who said she spoke to some of the boys. “I am from Latin America where you have to learn to live with this type of behaviour from people. In this instance I felt like I was being intimidated because there were several of them.”

She added: “I have this habit or this way of trying to make light of the situation in order to establish empathy with the people for them to stop bothering me, hopefully.”

The 17-year-old boy admitted a public order offence yesterday (Thursday) but denied his actions towards Ms Hannigan were motivated by hostility based on the woman’s sexual orientation.

In the CCTV, he can be seen staying at the back of the bus for most of the interaction and moving forwards towards the end.

The prosecution said he threw several coins, but he said he only threw one to annoy one of the other boys. “I thought it was funny at the time,” the teen said at the fact-finding hearing today.

However, Judge Williams found that his behaviour was based on the women’s sexual orientation.

She sentenced him to a four month youth rehabilitation order, four months supervision with the Youth Offending Team, 20 hours reparation order and a two week curfew.

Judge Williams said the boys’ behaviour was “intrusive” and “harassing” in nature and that the women were harassed because of “who they were”.

She said: “I think you need to think very carefully about how you behave.”

She added: “I do not think you realised for one moment just what it felt like from the point of view of Ms Ramirez and Ms Hannigan.” The teenager replied: “Of course I do.”

Charges were dismissed against another 17-year-old who also faced public order act offences on Thursday.

A 16-year-old from Wandsworth pleaded guilty to the theft of Ms Hannigan’s handbag and handling stolen goods in relation to her mobile phone. He also admitted two charges of public order offences of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

He will be sentenced on December 19 at Wimbledon Youth Court.

The 15-year-old from Kensington and Chelsea admitted two charges of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress and handling Ms Ramirez’s stolen bank card. He will be sentenced on December 23 at the same court.

The 17-year-old, from Kensington and Chelsea admitted one charge of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress to Ms Hannigan.

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