A 20-year-old man, found guilty of vandalising more than 20 historic Jewish graves at Grafton cemetery in New Zealand has escaped a custodial sentence writes Debra Green.

Graves desecrated at Grafton Cemetery in New Zealand

Graves desecrated at Grafton Cemetery in New Zealand

Christian Landmark appeared in Auckland District Court on the 28th June where the Judge, Russell Collins, ordered him to return to court in August with an air ticket to leave the country.  Landmark’s promise to leave New Zealand allowed him to avoid a jail sentence, according to local media reports.  As he is not a citizen of New Zealand, Landmark could not be sentenced to community service.

A charge or willful damage could carry a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment in New Zealand.  Instead, Landmark has been ordered to pay $3,000 to cover the cost of repairs to the desecrated graves he vandalised last October.  Attacking the graves with graffiti swastikas and the number 88 – code for ‘Heil, Hitler’ – Judge Collins condemned Landmark’s actions saying: “I seriously doubt you have any insight into how distressing the spraying of the symbol of that regime is to New Zealanders”.

Jewish Council President, Stephen Goodman described the attack on the historic graves, with some dating back to the 1880s, as a “wanton act of anti-Semitic vandalism”.

Israeli ambassador to New Zealand at the time, Shemi Tzur, slammed the attack as a “vile act of blind hatred for Jews and for the sole Jewish state”.

Landmark was not the only one involved in the attack – another man, Robert Moulden, pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to community service.  Local Jews organised a restorative justice programme for Moulden, who has no family, arranging for him to attend a Shabbat dinner and learn about the Holocaust.