A SHOPKEEPER suffered months of torment at the hands of a racist “bully” who targeted his store.
Inderjit Singh was told his beard, a religious symbol in the Sikh community, would be grabbed.
His turban was also knocked off his head during the sickening harassment at the hands of Phillip Richardson.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that Richardson’s cruel taunts took a chilling twist, when the 23-year-old threatened to burn the Singh’s Washington Wine and Convenience Store in Usworth.
Richardson was arrested after he made the fire threat, but denied wrongdoing and was allowed his freedom while awaiting trial.
While on bail, in a final act of defiance, Richardson went back to the shop and smashed a £400 CCTV camera.
He then targeted the Eurostore in Concord, and smashed a window with a dog lead he was swinging while telling the shopkeeper: “I will break your head. You come over here to do business and I’m not gong to let you.”
Richardson, of Kingsdale Avenue, Usworth, was convicted of religiously aggravated threatening behaviour, racially-aggravated assault, threatening to damage property, and racially aggravated criminal damage after a trial at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court.
Prosecutor Jolyon Perkes told the crown court yesterday it was in June last year trouble started, when Mr Singh refused to sell wine to Richardson because he feared it was to be given to underage drinkers outside.
This resulted in a tirade of abuse and the threat that Mr Singh’s beard would be pulled.
Mr Perkes said: “He took the view he was being exceptionally disrespectful to him and he recognised the beard was a religious symbol for him and it was the height of disrespect.”
Two weeks later Richardson was back at the shop and persuaded a pal to hit Mr Singh’s head, causing his turban to fall to the floor.
Mr Perkes said: “Knocking the turban off his head is the ultimate insult in the Sikh religion.”
The court heard the taunts continued against Mr Singh, despite his pleas to be left alone. Then, on July 10, Richardson warned the victim’s son “I’m going to fire your shop”, which left the whole family terrified.
He attacked the CCTV camera in October and taunted the second shopowner in November.
Judge Roger Thorn jailed Richardson for 21 months.
The judge told him: “It was downright bullying what you were doing.”
Jamie Adams, defending, said Richardson has apologised for his behaviour and now realises the error of his ways.
Mr Adams said: “Drink was at the heart of it rather than deep-seated racism or religious hatred, there is nothing of that in his background.”