Page last updated at 08:53 GMT, Friday, 25 September 2009 09:53 UK

Race abuse diplomat convicted

Scales of Justice
Rowan Laxton holds a senior post at the Foreign Office

A Foreign Office diplomat has been found guilty of shouting anti-Semitic comments while exercising in a gym.

Rowan Laxton, 48, was fined £350 at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court after being found guilty of racially aggravated harassment.

The incident, which took place at the London Business School gym on 27 January, was heard by other gym-users, who complained.

Laxton was suspended from his job and bosses are considering the case.

Laxton, who is head of the South Asia desk of the Foreign Office, was watching a television report about the death of a farmer killed by Israeli bombs when he swore and used anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish language.

In a written judgment, District Judge Howard Riddle said Laxton had been under stress on the day of the incident, and may have been oblivious to others around him.

He said: "This was not a legitimate protest - it was an emotional reaction.

"It is hard to imagine the circumstances when [using anti-Semitic language] in a gym used by other people, and overheard by two strangers 20ft away, could be considered reasonable."

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) spokeswoman said: "The FCO takes very seriously any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour by its staff.

"The case will now be considered under the FCO's misconduct procedure."

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