The Lancashire Telegraph reports on the sentencing of two men for racially aggravated public order offences after one of them subjected a Muslim woman who wears a face veil to verbal abuse in the aisles of a Tesco supermarket in Burnley.
The local paper carries an interview with the Muslim victim, Rahela Chowdhury, 32, who talked about her experience and her determination not to let the incident “change the way I am and who I am.”
Mrs Chowdhury was shopping in the supermarket late one evening with her four children, two aged 12, one aged four and the other aged 11, when she was approached by John McDougall who starting abusing her, asking her why she wore a face veil. Mrs Chowdhury said, “It was the first time anyone had shouted at me in this way. I was frozen and I didn’t know what to do.”
Mrs Chowdhury said she feared more for her children and that her youngest child “started crying uncontrollably.”
McDougall’s outburst was halted when a member of staff intervened and the store’s security officers removed him from the premises.
Mrs Chowdhury’s husband, Khalil, said “She has been out rarely since and is really fearful that it could happen again. It is very upsetting for her for someone to start shouting ‘Why can’t I see your face?’”
“This was a very distressing incident for her and now I make sure I go out with her.”
Mrs Chowdhury urged other victims of racist abuse to report incidents saying McDougall had appeared in court charged with public order offences after she reported the matter to the police. She said, “It has made me more fearful but at the same time I have become determined that I won’t let this change the way I am and who I am.”
At Burnley Magistrates Court John McDougall, 50, admitted a racially aggravated charge of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress. The charge related to the incident involving Mrs Chowdhury and a second victim, Tanu Miah.
McDougall was ordered to undertake 200 hours unpaid work within 12 months, to pay a combined total of £100 compensation to the victims, as well as a £60 victim surcharge. He must also pay £85 costs and a £180 criminal court charge.
A second offender, Jordan McDougall, 28, was also charged and pleaded guilty to using threatening or abusive words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be cause harassment, alarm or distress.
He received a conditional discharge for six months and was ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge and a £150 criminal court charge.