Hijab Woman Sentenced to Six Months

Sarah Malik, ninemsn (Sydney), November 19, 2010

A Muslim woman has lodged an appeal after she was sentenced to six months in prison for falsely accusing a police officer of forcibly removing her veil.

Carnita Matthews, a 46-year-old mother of seven, broke down in tears as Magistrate Robert Rabbidge described her crime as “deliberate, malicious and ruthless”.

“There is not a shadow of doubt in my mind, beyond a reasonable doubt, that she knew that the complaint she was making was false,” he told Campbelltown Local Court on Friday.

“The system would collapse, of course, if people are making false and wrong complaints to authorities.”

Matthews was charged with one count of making a false complaint against police in August, after signing a statutory declaration claiming an officer forced her to remove her hijab, or face veil.

It was made three days after she was pulled over by Senior Constable Paul Fogarty at Woodbine, in Sydney’s southwest, for a random breath test on June 7 this year.

A video of the incident, which was played to the court, shows Matthews accusing the officer of being a racist after he handed her a fine for not displaying green P-plates properly.

“You look at me and see me wearing this and you couldn’t handle it. All cops are racist,” she says.

The magistrate rejected her lawyer’s argument that the prosecution could not prove it was Matthews herself who made the complaint and signed the declaration.

But police prosecutor sergeant Lisa McEvoy said there was no doubt.

“Her signature on that affidavit coupled with the signature on her driver’s licence is exactly the same,” she told the court.

Despite the fact Matthews has no previous criminal record, the magistrate said her crime was serious and demanded a “denunciatory” sentence.

He said highway patrol police faced an “onerous duty” in issuing fines to irate members of the public, adding an allegation of racism was serious and could jeopardise a career.

“There is an absolute and clear duty on police to satisfy who they are dealing with,” he told the court.

Stephen Hopper, Matthews’ lawyer, immediately lodged an appeal to the District Court against the conviction and sentence. His client was granted bail.

“The defence disagree with the learned magistrate’s decision,” he told AAP outside the court.

“Accordingly, we have lodged an all-grounds appeal for the matter to be heard in the District court.”

Mr Hopper said he couldn’t comment personally on the matter.

“Certainly, that doesn’t stop other people forming their own views,” he said.

“I am sure some people will agree with the magistrate and some people will disagree.”

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