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Crown Appeals Decision to Acquit Man of Racially Aggravated Harassment

PF v David Callaghan/u>

The Crown has appealed against a Sheriff’s decision to acquit a man of racially aggravated harassment. Mr Callaghan was charged with calling a tenant a “f*cking black bastard”. At the trial the sheriff had acquitted the accused because it was stated that the crown has failed to lead evidence the complainer was part of a racial group.

However, the Sheriff Appeal Court did not agree with this argument and remitted the case back to the Sheriff asking him to convict the respondent.

Sheriff Principal Pyle said: “Subsection (1)(b) states that an offence is committed where someone acts in a manner which is racially aggravated and which causes or is intended to cause a person alarm or distress. Subsection (2)(a) defines racial aggravation by reference to the evincing of malice and ill-will based on a person’s membership or presumed membership of a racial group. Subsection (6) defines ‘racial group’ by reference to a number of factors, one of which is colour. In our view the use by the respondent of the phrase ‘f*cking black bastard’ infers that the respondent was evincing malice and ill-will towards the complainer in terms of subsection (2)(a) by reference to his colour and therefore by reference to a presumed membership of a racial group as defined in subsection (6). The sheriff considered that actual alarm had been caused. Intention to cause alarm may be inferred from the language used. It follows that an offence in terms of s.50A(1)(b) has been committed.” The Sheriff therefore had misdirected himself.

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