Man accused of racial abuse, coward-punching on Ballarat bus

A 25-year-old man allegedly racially abused a university student on a public bus before coward-punching a good Samaritan who came to her defence.

Police allege Joseph Haebich boarded a public bus at Mt Clear’s Midvale Shopping Centre at 10.55am on April 13, 2016, when he made a racial comment to the female student travelling from Federation University.

A male passenger stood up for the student, the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court was told on Wednesday.

But when he exited the bus at a stop in Lydiard Street, Haebich allegedly followed and hit him from behind causing him to crash into a shop window.

The court was told the victim tried to follow Haebich down Bath Lane but he was injured with a swollen ankle, ear wounds and forehead bruising.

Magistrate Gregory Robinson said the passenger did the right thing to defend the student.

“The brave thing to do is to come to the defence. I think it’s right and brave that a gentleman does react, then he gets hit from behind,” Mr Robinson said.

Defence counsel Jonathan Makary said Haebich agreed he assaulted the victim, but disagreed it was racially motivated.

“My client says he is having a discussion with his partner and the victim tells him to keep it down,” Mr Makary said.

“I would say it’s not a racial assault.”

Mr Makary said the case was not ready to be resolved.

Haebich, who remains in custody, is charged with recklessly causing injury and a number of other offences.

Police allege Haebich’s DNA was linked to attempted aggravated burglaries across Ballarat.

The court was told on December 3, 2016 at 1am the victim, her husband and their two children were asleep when offenders entered their Ballarat home to steal keys to a 2016 Ford Focus sedan. Haebich’s DNA was allegedly linked to the stolen car.

In another alleged incident on May, 17, 2017, police located Haebich sitting in the driver’s seat of a car with unregistered number plates at the Mt Clear Recreation Reserve.

After searching the car, police allegedly found a crossbow and a homemade firearm. Haebich is a allegedly prohibited person to possess a firearm, the court was told.

Mr Makary said Haebich was contesting some of the charges, including recklessly causing injury, attempted aggravated burglary and prohibited person possessing a firearm. He will return to court for a contested hearing on September 7.