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Last Updated: Friday, 2 November 2007, 12:24 GMT
Apology for 'mean' hijab offence
Damien French
Damien French said he would not be before the courts again
A 21-year-old man who pulled a head scarf - or hijab - from the head of a Muslim woman has publicly apologised.

Damien French, 21, of Rhyl, was given an 18-week prison sentence, suspended for two years, and sent on probation service courses at Mold Crown Court.

He admitted racially aggravated common assault and public order offences, and said he was genuinely sorry.

Recorder Robert Trevor-Jones told him it was deplorable, despicable and "mean in the extreme".

French made a public apology to all he had offended over the years, said he was ashamed of his past and would like to say sorry face-to-face to Shahenna Hussain, 23.

I don't intend to be back in court again
Damien French

French was ordered to live at a hostel in Ruabon for six months as part of his rehabilitation.

"It is genuine," he said. "I have been at the bail hostel for two months and I have stayed out of trouble. I don't intend to be back in court again".

In April 2006, he was also given a suspended sentence after throwing a rabbit into the alligator pool at the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay.

'Great distress'

Asked how he felt about that incident, he said "it was a pretty cruel thing to do" and, looking back, he felt depressed about it.

On the latest offence, the court heard that his victim was pushing a pushchair with her sister and two nieces along a Rhyl street when her hijab was yanked by French.

Mr Trevor-Jones said: "It goes beyond a mere assault - it was quite literally an intrusion which caused her great distress," he said.

"It was a violation which she was angry about, and justifiably so."

The judge said that he was being given a chance but said he hoped his change was genuine, or otherwise he would find himself back in court where he would be jailed.

French was seen by a witness in a nearby shop to be initially hurling racial abuse at a coach which appeared full of Asian passengers.

Miss Hussain saw the defendant and his group, realised what was happening, put her head down to avoid eye contact and continued on her way.

But French and his group noticed her, and he shouted and swore in racial terms towards her.

Brian Treadwell, defending, said that his client had written a letter of apology and accepted that his behaviour was "thoroughly shameful and disrespectful".

French suffered learning disabilities, his educational development had been somewhat stunted, and he had the mind of a 14-year-old.

But his behaviour at the bail hostel had been exemplary and it was clear that he had matured.

"This is one of those rare cases where a young man has changed and is determined to put his past behind him," Mr Treadwell explained.



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