An Indian national who was convicted for indecent assault against a 16-year-old school girl has been found to be a person of good character due to his conduct since the offence was committed.
An Indian national whose citizenship application was refused due to his conviction in an indecent assault case of a minor has now been determined to be of “good character” with a direction to the Department of Home Affairs to reconsider his application in a judgment delivered last week.
Hawrinder Singh, who is now 32, was convicted of two offences of unlawful assault and indecent assault in August 2008 after he pleaded guilty, for indecently touching a 16-year-old schoolgirl on a train. He was also found to be in breach of his reporting requirements arising out of his conviction for a sexual crime against a minor.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal, during his appeal against the Department’s decision to refuse his citizenship application filed in March 2016, heard that Mr Singh pleaded guilty as “he did not have the money to fight the matter and thought it was appropriate to accept the charge and finish the matter off now”.
The Tribunal also heard that Mr Singh had told the police that he did not recall touching the girl, but if that’s what she said, he did not touch her intentionally.
The Tribunal also heard the evidence by a passenger who was on the train when the incident had happened which said that the train was overcrowded and that a girl had bumped into him and another passenger had knocked the newspaper he was carrying. He also gave evidence that he had witnessed a girl yelling at a Mr Singh “you touched my bum” while he seemed to deny it. “He seemed taken aback and timid.”
"Appropriate" quantum of sentence
Mr Singh then got off the train and tried to run away but a group of secondary school girls followed him and held him until the police arrived, the Tribunal heard.
Mr Singh said he was frightened. He told the Tribunal that he had sought legal advice before pleading guilty to the charges but wasn’t told about the potential maximum sentence.
Though the lawyer who represented him has died and no records of proceedings against Mr Singh was available at Melbourne Magistrates Court, the Tribunal noted that while the maximum penalty for sexual assault was 10 years imprisonment, Mr Singh had been fined $1,000 for both the offences. “The sentencing magistrate came to the considered view that this was an appropriate quantum in terms of the gravity of Mr Singh’s offending,” Senior Member DJ Morris said.
A "good character" and no pattern of criminal behaviour
The Tribunal also accepted Mr Singh’s version that he didn’t appreciate the consequences of not being able to meet the reporting requirements.
His employer gave the evidence that he knows about Mr Singh's offending and that he was an "honest and hardworking" person. A character reference from the Sikh Temple in Blackburn, Melbourne said that Mr Singh was an excellent role model, and a person of good character "and as a bright spot in our congregation”.
A psychologist’s report was also presented to the Tribunal that said Mr Singh did not have a personality or psychological characteristics which would indicate a propensity to commit sexual or other offences and noted that since his offending in 2008, there was no pattern of serious criminal behaviour.
“A person who has been convicted of a serious crime may nonetheless show, by his subsequent conduct, to have reformed and now be of good character,” Senior Member Morris said while setting aside the Department’s decision to refuse Mr Singh’s citizenship application and asking it to be reconsidered.