Racially or Religiously Aggravated Threatening Behaviour
What does it mean to be charged with racially or religiously aggravated threatening behaviour?
We were recently contacted by a gentleman who was charged with a Public Order Offence, namely using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress. He was also charged with the racially or religiously aggravated offence.
Our client did not really remember much of the alleged incident. Our client accepted that he was drunk. He accepted that he may have been loud. He even accepted that his behaviour could have caused concern. But he did not want to plead to something he did not remember and he was certain that he would not have been deliberately racist or religiously offensive.
We discussed this and agreed that we would obtain all the evidence from the prosecution before advising him on a plea, including the statement of the ‘victim’, any witnesses along with CCTV of the interaction from the petrol station.
The CCTV had no audio, it was a petrol station forecourt so at best it showed our client’s body language. It showed him exiting his car and walking across the forecourt to the station serving window and a verbal exchange happening. He then returned to his car before once again returning back to the shop and rattling the doors – seemingly trying to get in. This, combined with the statement of the victim, did suggest that some level of alarm was caused – we therefore advised our client to plead Guilty to the basic offence.
For the Racially or Religiously Aggravated Threatening Behaviour we looked to the victim’s statement. For an offence to be considered “racially or religiously aggravated” it must meet the following criteria:
- At the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrates towards the victim of the offence hostility based on the victim’s membership (or presumed membership) of a racial or religious group
- The offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards members of a racial or religious group based upon their membership of that group.
From the victim’s statement we did not believe that either of these were proven and advised our client accordingly that a Not Guilty plea could be appropriate – the victim even said that our client did not say anything directly racist! Our client, when the comments were read back to him, was able to explain to us that it was a political discussion, that he was trying to provoke a debate – and his comments were very clearly not directed at one particular religious group or racial ethnicity as for each he commented on what could be seen to be it’s political opposite. He explained to us that certain comments were more a political commentary on the ‘tit for tat’ situation that appeared to be in place between religious extremists at the moment. He certainly had not intended to be deliberately racist or religiously offensive.
We supported our client through the initial hearing, and then in the run up to and during the trial. Our client knew that he had a team of experts on his side that believed in him and were fighting for him. And when the verdict was read out and sentence passed he was happy with the outcome.
If you are charged with an offence and want a team who will listen to you, support you and fight for what is right for you then give the Forrest Williams team a call on 01623 397200 . We know that it’s not just about the offence, we understand that this is about you, and we will work with you to obtain the best possible outcome for you.