Lesbian attacked on London night bus punched teens after homophobic taunts went too far, court hears
A woman attacked on a night bus by a group of teenagers punched them after being subjected to homophobic taunts, a court has heard.
Christine Hannigan, 29, told a court she felt “scared” and “physically cornered” as the teens asked her how lesbians have sex.
Highbury Youth Court heard how she and Melania Ramirez, 28, were on their way home from a day on the N31 bus in Camden, north London, when they were targeted by a group of teenagers.
Ms Hannigan told the court that the teenagers said “oh lesbians” and started taunting them, before one of the teenagers threw coins at her at least three times as another three boys “were immediately surrounding” her and Ms Ramirez.
The court heard Ms Hannigan got up, walked down the aisle and punched one of the teenagers at the back of the bus where a fight broke out.
The three teenagers, aged 15, 16 and 17, pleaded guilty to threatening or abusive behaviour towards both women.
But the 17-year-old, who admitted to throwing coins at Ms Hannigan, denied his actions were motivated by their sexual orientation.
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Speaking behind a screen in court on Friday, Ms Hannigan said when the abuse first started she pretended to be sick to avoid conflict, telling the court: “frankly I deal with a lot of homophobia in London and I was sick of it.”
She said: “I remember two of them were in the aisle and the third one sat in the seat directly behind me. They started making remarks about us visibly being together. It was a lot of “oh lesbians.”
“They were asking to know how lesbians have sex. They made several comments about scissoring. I did not speak to them. I did not feel that they wanted a response from me.
“Melania and I were together in a romantic sense. We were being affectionate with each other.”
District Judge Susan Williams said the footage clearly showed the couple were “having a kiss and a cuddle” when they first sat down at the front of the night bus.
When asked how she felt about the comments made to her by the teenagers, Ms Hannigan said: “It is pretty intimidating, to be physically cornered and have people make homophobic comments to you in your space.
“I was not speaking with them. I had turned my back away from them. Melania was speaking to them and she was trying to de-escalate the situation.
"I engaged with them only after I realised one started throwing coins at us.”
Ms Hannigan said one of the teenagers threw coins at her at least three times while another three boys “were immediately surrounding” the couple.
The court heard she got up, walked down the aisle and punched one of the teenagers at the back of the bus where a fight broke out.
District Judge Williams said: “When it did happen again it was a step too far and you reacted.”
David Wood, defending, said: “Obviously these boys did make reference to you being lesbians. That did happen. Obviously there is a reference to scissoring.
"But the extent to which they were being a aggressive or targeting you because of you being on a date with another woman, is that actually true in your mind?
Ms Hannigan said: “I did not say anything that was untrue to what the boys did. I would attribute it more towards being extremely distressed and a lot of adrenaline.”
She said she “was still extremely distressed” at the hospital when she gave a statement to police.