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Friday, 25 July 2014

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Sentences for Carlisle racist thugs welcomed

Community leaders in Carlisle today welcomed the tough sentences handed down to the racist thugs responsible for two separate hate crimes in the city.

District judge Gerald Chalk yesterday imposed youth custody on two 16-year-olds – a boy and a girl – for a racially motivated attack on an Indian man as he played football in the city’s Rickerby Park.

The case came to court just two weeks after another high-profile court case, which ended with the jailing of an 11-strong racist mob.

The group – which included a man previously convicted of publicly burning the Koran holy book in Carlisle city centre – subjected two Turkish takeaway workers in Botchergate to vile racist abuse.

All were jailed for between 10 and 30 months after Judge Paul Batty QC told them: “Racism must not be allowed to flourish in this city.”

In the latest case, heard at the city’s magistrates court, the judge heard how the two 16-year-olds, whose identities are protected by law, had been drunk when they carried out the attack on care worker Shibu Augustian.

Both had denied racially-aggravated assault and three charges of racially aggravated harassment.

But they were found guilty after a trial last month, which heard how in April last year the girl and a friend had hurled racist abuse at Mr Augustian as he played football with friends.

Returning to the park with a gang of about eight teenagers, the defendants then took part in a vicious attack on Mr Augustian, during which he was punched and kicked and had his head stamped on.

The victim needed several operations to repair the damage to his nose and is still suffering the psychological effects of the beating.

The court heard that he is now afraid to go out, suffers mild panic attacks when he sees large groups of teenagers and now avoids routes where he is likely to see them.

“He suffers flashbacks and can’t sleep. His life has dramatically changed,” said prosecutor Ken Hay.

Defence solicitor John Smith said that the boy was sorry for what he had done and knew his behaviour was unacceptable.

Nick Kennon, for the girl, said she also regretted what she did and blamed immaturity for her actions. Both lawyers said their clients were not usually racist.

District Judge Gerald Chalk said custody was the only option given the severity of the offences. They were each given 12-month detention orders.

The sentences, and those imposed on the gang who abused the two Turkish workers just a month later, were welcomed by Aftab Khan, of AWAZ Cumbria, an independent voluntary organisation which fights racism and supports black and ethnic minority groups in the county.

He said: “It sends out a clear message to people if they have such prejudices that they should keep them to themselves. The laws of this country will not support racist behaviour.

“I have spoken to the victim of the Rickerby Park attack and he feels that justice has been done but he also feels that the young people who perpetrated this crime against him have been failed by the education system.

“More needs to be done to promote multicultural awareness and tolerance. We should be educating people for multicultural awareness and for citizenship.”

Mr Khan said that Carlisle City Council and Cumbria County Council in particular needed to do more to promote good race relations at a time when racial incidents appeared to be on the rise.

A city council spokeswoman said the authority has taken action to address the needs of all communities, including hard-to-reach groups. She said: “We were the first district council in the county to be judged as an ‘achieving authority’, meeting extensive equality and diversity criteria. Work on diversity and equality is a key part of our day to day council business.”

A Cumbria County Council spokesman said its multi-cultural service carried out a wide range of activities alongside ethnic minorities, fostering good relations between people of different races and backgrounds.

He added: “Cumbria County Council is committed to promoting the interests of ethnic minorities and bringing communities together in events such as the Carlisle Culture Bazaar, which has received county council funding.”

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