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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Race chief quits over disorder charge
Gurbux Singh arriving at court
Gurbux Singh has led the CRE for two years
A leading race campaigner has resigned from his post after admitting threatening police officers during an incident at Lord's cricket ground.

Gurbux Singh, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), pleaded guilty to using threatening behaviour after drinking seven glasses of wine at an international match last month.

He was fined 500 and ordered to pay 55 costs at Bow Street magistrates court in London on Wednesday.

But he has received a pay-off in the region of 100,000 following his resignation.


I deeply regret this entire incident and now wish to put it behind me

Gurbux Singh

After the case Mr Singh said he had decided to step down from his post "in order that a line can be drawn under recent events".

"I also believe this to be in the best interests of both the CRE and race relations in general," he added.

His confrontation with police came as he left Lord's, in north London, after watching India beat England in a one-day international.

Prosecutor Deborah Walsh told the court that Mr Singh was with his wife Siobhan Maguire, 40, when he walked into a police officer.

She said he had walked towards the officer with clenched fists and had sworn at him.

Ms Walsh said: "The officer said if two males had not been holding Mr Singh back, Mr Singh would have assaulted him.

"He then said: 'I'll have your jobs. Do you know who I am? Blair (Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner) is going to hear about this.' "

'Disgraceful behaviour'

Police could smell drink on Mr Singh's breath, his eyes were glazed and he tried to head-butt one of the officers, the court heard.

William Boyce QC, representing Mr Singh, told the court his client was a man of honour and integrity.

He said: "He deeply feels he has let himself down and others.

"He is a defendant who will punish himself far more seriously than the court can or will, and will continue to punish himself."

He said Mr Singh had drunk about seven glasses of wine that day and admitted swearing and waving his hands around but denied clenching his fist.

District judge Nicholas Evans fined Mr Singh and said: "This was disgraceful behaviour maintained for a relatively long period of time, quite out of character and brought about by an excess of drink."

But he gave him credit for his guilty plea and for apologising to the police officers.

A file of testimonials to his previous good character from a number of unnamed public figures were held up in court.

Home Office minister Lord Filkin said in a statement that he was "very sorry" to see Mr Singh stand down but they had agreed this was the best way to draw a line under recent events.

He said Mr Singh had made an exceptional personal contribution to race equality and had helped to modernise the commission.

Beverley Bernard, the CRE's deputy chairman, takes on the role of chairman for an interim period.

In a statement, she paid tribute to Mr Singh and said: "Gurbux brought a rational voice to the very emotive subject of race relations."

'Improper'

But Mr Singh's pay-off has attracted some criticism.

Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust, said it supported the belief that certain people were "untouchable" when they did wrong.

He said: "Had a police officer committed an identical crime against Mr Singh or anyone else on the CRE, they would have been sacked and lost any pension rights.

"It just goes to show there's one law for certain people and one law for others."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Norman Baker said: "If Mr Singh was a normal public sector worker he would not be getting compensation, he would be leaving under a cloud.

"This will not be welcomed by the public, who will regard it as an improper use of taxpayers' money."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark Mardell reports
"Gurbux Singh can look forward to a big cheque from the government"
On the World Tonight:
Peter Bottomley, MP, and Patience Wheatcroft of The Times discuss the issue

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