Using the phrase "bloody foreigners" can be racist, judges at London's High Court have ruled.
Xenophobic remarks were the stock-in-trade of TV's Alf Garnett
They were considering if a youth court had been right to dismiss a charge of racially aggravated criminal damage.
A 16-year-old youth used the phrase in an argument with a Turkish-speaking chef in a Portsmouth kebab shop, before cracking the shop window.
The judges did not direct magistrates to continue the case against the youth, now 17, who had been drunk at the time.
Lord Justice Auld, sitting with Mr Justice Richards, decided that since the case was several months old it was enough that the law had been clarified.
Unsound in law
The youth, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been charged under section 28 of the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act following the incident last August.
This legislation exposes offenders to higher penalties where crimes have a racist element.
But magistrates in Fareham, Hampshire, ruled the words "bloody foreigners" could not be construed as
"expressing hostility" based on the victim's presumed membership of "a particular racial group".
It found the youth's behaviour had been more motivated by the argument over whether he had paid for his food.
The High Court has now ruled the magistrates' decision was unsound in law and that the motivation for the youth's behaviour was irrelevant.
For the offence to be committed, all that was necessary was for the
defendant "to demonstrate towards the victim hostility based on the victim's
membership, or presumed membership, of a racial group", said the judge.
The youth involved will not face a retrial, but the ruling will be taken into account in future cases.