The Kenyan community in Perth, Australia is expressing dismay after a lawyer for a driver who hit a Kenyan girl made what was described as insensitive comments about her.
The lawyer made the statements as she was defending an Australian man who hit Sophie Muiruri as she was crossing a street.
The 19 year old student was sent airborne onto a pole when David Clark’s Mercedes Benz struck her on the night of September 16 2015 leaving her with serious injuries.
Muiruri sustained skull and spinal fractures as well as bruised lungs.
While defending Clark, his lawyer said that Muiruri was a good as “invisible” and was the reason why Clark did not see her.
“She was wearing dark clothing, and had dark skin and black hair, which made it hard to see (her),” defence lawyer Vesna Amidzic told the jury.
“She may as well have been invisible,” she said.
Clarke, 28, said that he did not even realize he had hit Muiruri until he noticed his car was dented when he parked at home.
He said he only realized something was wrong when he saw flashing lights from his penthouse apartment, which overlooked the intersection.
On Friday, the jury acquitted Clarke for failing to provide assistance to Muiruri but found him guilty of not reporting the accident.
The Kenyan community was dismayed by the comments by the lawyer and turned to the Kenyan High Commision in Canberra to voice their concerns.
The Kenyan High Commissioner to Australia, Isaiah Kabira wrote a letter protesting the lawyer’s comments saying that the statement was unwarranted and emotionally and psychologically painful.
“The statement has had both psychological and emotional effects to the community, the family and the victim,” Kabira said in the letter.
“No child or human being deserves to be referred to as invisible.”
Attorney Amidzic denied that she was being racially insensitive saying she was just raising an issue with Muiruri’s visibility at the time.
“My client has absolute sympathy for her position,” the lawyer said. “This is a completely tragic accident and the comment … was in the context of someone with dark skin, at night, crossing against the pedestrian lights at a dark intersection.
“It’s not racial vilification. I thought it was common sense – it’s about visibility.”
During the sentencing, where the judge said that the defendant was remorseful, Clarke was fined $10,000 and barred from driving for a period of one year.
The judge told him that he was lucky other drivers witnessed the accident and were able to get Muiruri the help she needed before it was too late.