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Crude desecration of graves punished

AMY MAAS
Last updated 16:29 27/02/2013
Robert Moulden
JOHN SELKIRK/ Fairfax NZ
SENTENCED: Robert Moulden will undertake 320 hours of community service after admitting to desecrating Jewish graves.

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A man who admitted desecrating Jewish graves with crude slogans at an Auckland cemetery has been sentenced to 320 hours community work.

Robert Moulden, 19, appeared at the Auckland District Court today where he was also ordered to pay $3000 reparation and to undergo nine months supervision.

He pleaded guilty to a charge of wilful damage in November.

In sentencing, Judge Russell Collins said he hoped the community work would include a placement with the Auckland Council's graffiti team.

Moulden's co-accused maintains his innocence and will fight the charge.

More than a dozen headstones in the Jewish quarter of the Symonds St Cemetary were vandalised with images of swastikas and expletive-ridden anti-Israeli messages on October 19, 2012.

Collins said it was unsurprising Moulden was apprehended by police so soon as photos of the graffiti taken on mobile phones had been circulating on social media.

Although Collins accepted Moulden was remorseful and that he had suffered through comments on social media, he had committed a hate crime.

Through victim impact statements read out in court, one person labelled Moulden's actions as "repugnant".

Another victim said their family had fled Nazi Europe to New Zealand and the swastika represented a symbol of hatred and inferiority.

"They feel shame and disgust toward you," said Collins.

Despite the anger, the Jewish community undertook restorative justice with Moulden and invited him into their homes for a religious ceremony, and have even offered to assist him with furthering his education.

"To your credit, you were willing to engage with the Jewish community and a more extraordinary outcome is the forgiving nature of the members of the Jewish community," said Collins.

"Their forgivness of you needs to be admired considering how wounding and distressing your actions were."

The cemetery, Auckland's first, has long been a target for vandals and also attracts people sleeping rough.

Auckland Council has spent more than $12,000 on trying to fix the vandalism, however, it had caused irreparable damage and it is likely the symbols may never be removed.

The damage is estimated to have cost $27,420.

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