Electronic Telegraph

ISSUE 2148, Thursday 12 April 2001

Boy on race charge over 'name-calling in playground'
By David Sapsted

A BOY who was 10 when he got involved in a playground name-calling row
with an Asian schoolmate will face a criminal trial next month for
racially aggravated assault, a court decided yesterday.

Despite misgivings voiced in the High Court in London this week Ipswich
youth court yesterday set a trial date of May 11.

The boy, now 11, allegedly called the Asian a "Paki bastard" and punched
him twice in the back after the Asian called him a skunk and likened him
to one of the Teletubbies, an apparent reference to the boy's size.
After a complaint by the Asian pupil's parents to the police, the Crown
Prosecution Service charged the boy with racially aggravated assault and
common assault.

Another 10-year-old also faces a common assault charge for tripping up
the Asian during the incident in Ipswich last September.

Solicitors for the boy accused of racism, identified as H, took the case
to the High Court to try to have the prosecution thrown out. Lord
Justice Kennedy, sitting with Mr Justice Garland, declined to do so on
the grounds that the court should not interfere with the judgment of the
CPS. However, he said that he "fully understood" the argument for
dropping the prosecution. "It is in many respects a tragic matter. It
may be argued that even to think in terms of a prosecution is using a
sledgehammer to crack a nut."

Lord Justice Kennedy added: "It may do more harm than good, and is
unlikely to be particularly helpful to G [the Asian] or to H, or the
other children in their class, or the reputation of their primary school
and the teachers who work in it."

H was described as being from a "very good" family and had no
convictions. Stephen Ferguson, representing the boy, said: "It was a
glorified school- yard incident, geographically just outside the
schoolyard. If the matter is pursued to conviction, there will be a very
significant labelling of this young boy, which would have the most
devastating and disproportionate effect upon his life."

The Crown Prosecution Service said: "The judge is the ultimate dispenser
of justice and we have to pay attention to what he says, but that does
not mean we are re-examining the case."

The police are thought to have opposed prosecution. A CPS spokesman
said: "When the police sent the file to us they gave us their opinion,
but we are the ones who advise them. We considered there was sufficient
evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it would be in the
public interest to proceed."