Trial collapses after jury told of accuser’s ‘racist’ behaviour
Published at 11:23, Thursday, 17 October 2013
THE trial of a Whitehaven market trader accused of behaving violently collapsed after a jury heard damning evidence of “racist” behaviour by his accuser.
The jury were left laughing hysterically and a judge branded evidence against the accused man by one of his rival traders as “frankly ludicrous”.
Judge Paul Batty QC told defendant Mohammed Ramzan, 64, that he left the court without a stain on his character.
On the judge’s direction, the jury recorded not guilty verdicts on the two allegations that Mr Ramzan faced: a single count of affray and another charge of perverting the course of justice.
The acquittals came after the court heard clear evidence of how Mr Ramzan, known in Whitehaven as ‘Johnny’, was regularly subjected to racist behaviour by his accuser, fellow Whitehaven stall-holder David Johnstone.
The prosecution originally suggested that Mr Ramzan, of Lonsdale Court, Whitehaven, had yelled aggressively and waved a metal bar at Mr Johnstone during a row in the town’s Market Place on September 13 of last year. Mr Ramzan, who came to the UK from Pakistan at the age of 15, was also accused of lying to the police about an incident eight days later when he said that Mr Johnstone threatened him.
In court, lawyers aired a detailed explanation of why Mr Johnstone’s evidence was not reliable. In his testimony, Mr Johnstone insisted he never swore and never used offensive expressions.
But a number of witnesses clearly contradicted him, including one who said he routinely offered the opinion that “those people” – a reference to black people – should not be living in the UK.
Another Whitehaven stallholder, Tom Whitehead, also contradicted Mr Johnstone’s version of events on September 13, confirming that he heard him use a racist term of abuse towards Mr Ramzan.
In evidence, the court heard Mr Whitehead liken what happened between the two men on September 13 to “handbags at dawn”, saying it had been happening for years. Defence barrister Brendan Burke commented: “Your honour, there is not an offence of using handbags at dawn known to law.”
Judge Batty described that part of the trial – which reduced the jury to gales of helpless laughter – as resembling a pantomime.
He told the jury: “In all my years as a judge, I have never seen a jury laugh as much as you did at the frankly ludicrous evidence given by Mr Johnstone, which was completely contradicted by another stallholder.”
The judge summarised the evidence of a retired Cumbria police sergeant Arthur Peers – who helps to run markets in the area – and who has known Mr Ramzan for years.
He said he never heard complaints about Mr Ramzan or had cause for concern.
“In contrast,” said the judge, “the complainant in this case, David Johnstone, who he has known for eight years, has been a person who has made unprompted general remarks about non-white people in the context of market traders; things like ‘these people should not be here’.”
Freeing Mr Ramzan, Judge Batty told him: “You leave court with no stain on your character whatsoever.” Given the trouble between the two men, Mr Ramzan agreed to be bound over to keep the peace for the next 12 months in the sum of £250. Such an undertaking does not represent a criminal conviction, the judge pointed out.
He added that a police officer who was in court should speak to Mr Johnstone, of Hillcrest Avenue, Whitehaven, and “advise him in the strongest possible terms” about racist abuse.
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
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