A Sydney magistrate has likened a coronavirus-fuelled stoush over toilet paper to a rugby league bust-up as he found a mother and daughter guilty of affray.
Health worker Meriam Bebawy, 23, and her daycare operator mum Treiza Bebawy, 61, have been sentenced over an altercation with another woman at a Woolworths store in Chullora on March 7.
Footage of the incident went viral on social media in March amid widespread panic buying of toilet paper.
It showed the Bebawys yelling and fighting with fellow shopper Tracey Hinckson, who grabbed one of the eight 36-roll toilet paper packs from their trolley.
“The first interaction between her (Ms Hinckson) and Meriam occasioned Treiza to join the fray,” Bankstown magistrate Peter Bugden said on Monday.
“All of the civilian witnesses and staff recalled screaming people….
“It’s a classic affray.”
Recalling an incident involving former rugby league player turned super-coach Jack Gibson, Mr Bugden explained why Ms Bebawy bore ultimate responsibility for the altercation.
“What Meriam Bebawy did was to take the law into her own hands,” he said.
“I’m reminded of an analogy from rugby league … these days, it’s the second man into the fight that gets the penalty for prolonging it.
“Rugby league authorities have known that for some time.
“Jack Gibson said he didn’t have time to have a management meeting out there. He took the action he did.”
In her police interview, Meriam Bebawy suggested Woolworths staff “ganged up” on them and said they were “selfish”.
The magistrate explained the toilet paper wasn’t the property of the Bebawys until they paid for it.
While noting the “unpleasantness” of up to 40 shoppers bolting into the store in search of toilet paper, Mr Bugden said Ms Bebawy’s “natural reaction” to rapidly chase after Ms Hinckson led to the confrontation.
“Meriam Bebawy and Treiza Bebawy acted in a way that caused the fray to take place,” he said.
Neither was in court on Monday as each was placed on one-year conditional release orders, a type of good behaviour bond.
Treiza Bebawy, who runs a local family daycare centre, was spared a conviction.