Thursday, September 08, 2022

Tom Tuite

Two teenage boys have been found guilty of attacking a Chinese woman who was shoved into a canal in Dublin after challenging a group of youths about racial taunts.

Video footage went viral on social media site TikTok of the woman remonstrating with boys who laughed as she was suddenly knocked into the Royal Canal in Dublin 15, on the evening of August 14th, 2020.

The two boys, now 16, were charged with assaulting Xeudan Xiong, 50, at the 12th Lock, Castleknock. They were aged 14 at the time.

Despite making admissions when questioned by gardai, they pleaded not guilty and faced a hearing on Thursday evening before Judge Paul Kelly at the Dublin Children’s Court.

Ms Xiong gave evidence, and the judge examined video footage from a mobile phone used to film the attack and a local shop’s CCTV, which helped gardai identify suspects.

Ms Xiong told State solicitor Niamh McKernan that she went for a stroll along the canal and enjoyed looking at fish and water lilies.

She described how she walked in the direction of Ashtown and stopped at a little pier at the 15th lock between Castleknock and Ashtown.

“All of a sudden”, she recalled, a bicycle rushed toward her and stopped one or two feet away. Ms Xiong said she jumped in fright, and two or three boys laughed.

“I screamed, and they mocked me,” she said, adding that they carried on in the Castleknock direction. She kept going toward Ashtown and picked up a branch because she was “so frightened” and did not feel safe.

Another group approached her, and one boy “looked me in the eye” and said, “corona, coronavirus”. Ms Xiong recalled feeling sad, but she continued until meeting a third group of boys. One of them was on a bike and continually circled her, and she remembered saying, “leave me alone”.

Minutes later, she heard them shouting, “Chinese noodles, fried noodles, a few times”.

At this point, Ms Xiong turned and went after them to tell them it was racial discrimination. She also took out her phone to record them, but they moved on.

Another group of boys then surrounded her, and one asked, “what did you do to my friends?”.

She said then she was pushed suddenly. “Next thing I remember, I was in the water,” she said, adding, “the only thing I can remember is being in the water”.

She remembered pulling herself out, and passers-by came to her help and went with her to the Blanchardstown Garda station. She later found out the boys had uploaded the video to TikTok.

Garda Ross Doyle obtained CCTV footage of the teens from their visit to a local shop shortly before the incident.

He also played a clip found on one of the group’s mobile phones. It showed Ms Xiong pleading with them to tell their friends not to discriminate until four youths suddenly pushed her into the water.

In the footage, she could be heard screaming as they rushed her, followed by the boys’ laughter and giggling as she went into the canal.

The court heard the incident led to media attention, and gardai later identified the youths.

Detective Sergeant Michael Redmond said the two boys were questioned in the presence of their parents and made admissions.

In his verdict, Judge Kelly found the evidence was sufficient to find them guilty.

He commissioned pre-sentence probation reports on the pair and noted that Ms Xiong wished to provide a victim impact statement.

The boys, accompanied to court by family members, remain on bail and will appear again next month for sentencing. The judge noted they had no prior convictions but had received Garda cautions previously.

A third boy who was in the group and filmed the incident on his phone had his assault charge dismissed. Judge Kelly said although his actions were “appalling”, that did not make him guilty of attacking her.

Two other boys questioned as part of the investigation faced a Garda juvenile restorative justice programme as an alternative to court proceedings.

Section 93 of the Children Act states no report shall be published or broadcast which reveals the name, address or school of any child concerned in the proceedings or include any details likely to lead to the identification of any child involved in the proceedings.

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