A pensioner who racially abused a woman wearing a hijab in front of the victim’s children, has been sentenced to a 12-month conditional discharge.
Retired Barbara Anne Blauvelt, 77, of Pinewoods, Bexhill, pleaded not guilty to two charges of religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress against Ritha Ahmed, but was convicted following a hearing in front of magistrates.
Police interviewed Blauvelt following an incident outside Sainsbury’s in Buckhurst Place at around 3.30pm on Monday January 11, where the victim, who was with her two children, was verbally abused over her wearing of the hijab.
The court heard how Blauvelt had said to her: “Women in Britain don’t cover up. You should not cover up. If you are going to live in Britain, you should live by British rules. You look like you’re about to bomb the place.”
Blauvelt had also approached the victim outside a local doctors’ surgery on Tuesday September 29 last year and abused her in a similar way.
Ritha Ahmed said: “I was born and brought up in Bexhill and I have never come across anything like this.
“I felt I needed to take this further to avoid further verbal abuse on women who choose to dress differently, regardless of whether it is a hijab or a habit.
“Everyone should be able to dress as they please and not have to face getting attacked by anyone.
“I am extremely happy and grateful to the police, especially PC Charlotte Williams who was so supportive throughout the whole process of bringing this to justice.
“I am very proud of being a British citizen as we are a diverse country and as the saying goes ‘the beauty of the world lies in the diversity of the people’.
“I would encourage victims of hate crime to come forward and report it to the police. You do not have to suffer in silence.”
At Eastbourne Magistrates Court last Thursday (April 21) Blauvelt was also ordered to pay £620 costs and a victim surcharge of £15.
Sergeant Peter Allan, Sussex Police’s hate crime sergeant, said: “I am pleased the court has convicted the defendant in this case. No-one should be targeted in such a personal and public way because of the way they dress.
“This sentence sends out a clear signal that we will take a robust approach to those who target individuals based on their disability, gender identity, race, religion or sexual orientation.”
Sgt Allan added: “I hope this case will encourage other victims of hate crime to report such behaviour to the police.
“We appreciate how difficult it can be for victims and witnesses to give evidence and I am pleased that both the victim and her daughter were offered the opportunity to give their evidence via a live link.
“This is a measure which was taken up by the victim’s daughter, but the victim wanted to give her evidence in open court to show she was not intimidated by the offender.”
Hate crime can be reported to Sussex Police by phoning 101 or 999 in an emergency.
Reports can also be made online by completing the short form http://bit.ly/1fTDYJh, available on the force’s website at www.sussex.police.uk.
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