Man pulled veil from Muslim woman's face in Sunderland race attack

Peter Scotter
Peter Scotter

A man has admitted pulling a veil from a Muslim woman's face in a racist attack in a Sunderland shopping centre in the days after Brexit.

Peter Scotter targeted the woman, who was with her nine-year son at the Bridges complex in Sunderland city centre on July 3 last year.

The 55-year-old approached his victim, who was waiting outside one of the stores for her husband, reached out and grabbed her niqab veil, pulled it off and threw it on the ground, exposing her face to the public.

He shouted racist abuse during the attack.

At Newcastle Crown Court Scotter pleaded guilty to racially aggravated assault by beating in relation to the woman.

He also admitted a charge of racially aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress.

The court heard both offences were based on Scotter's assumption that the woman was a member of a particular religious group, namely Islam.

Judge Stephen Earl said a custodial sentence was "inevitable", given the circumstances of the case and Scotter's long criminal record.

Tony Hawks, defending, said Scotter has recently been diagnosed with having a serious cancerous tumour under his tongue and faces major surgery next week.

Mr Hawks said: "I have seen documentation showing the diagnosis is pretty bad."

Scotter, of Beach Street, Roker, Sunderland, will be sentenced later.

A previous magistrates court hearing was told the victim was left exposed and scared by what happened to her.

A witness told police Scotter had shouted "take that ****er off, you stupid ****** Muslim" during the attack.

As he walked away he was heard saying "Our Britain, you live by our ******* rules".

The victim's niqab was damaged but she managed to repair it.

She told police after the attack: "This incident has left me scared to go out and I don't want to go into town again.

"I am disgusted my nine-year-old son had to witness this."

The woman, who regards Sunderland as her "home city" after moving her almost 30 years ago from Bangladesh, previously told the Echo that she and her family took great comfort in the outpouring of support from Wearsiders in the aftermath of the assault.

The mum-of-four said of her ordeal: "I was just shocked and when I saw my veil on the floor, it clicked what had happened.

"I felt really scared. I haven't slept a wink since, I've just been wandering around the house traumatised.

"But I want to thank everybody who helped and for their messages.

"I don't feel hate for him, I feel sorry for him.

"As a Muslim, if anyone hates, you love them back, that is what we are taught, to be be peaceful.

"I want to get the message out that it should be safe, that you should be able to wear what you want, whether it's a t-shirt and shorts, I want all girls to be safe.

"Sunderland is my home city. It is where my life is, where my children were born. It is my world and it will be where I die.

"I want it to be safe for everybody."

The attack happened at a time when reports of racial abuse were on the rise following Britain's exit from the European Union.

Sunderland voted to leave the EU by 61% on June 23 with 82,394 voting for Leave and 51,930 for Remain.

The woman's 32-year-old brother said after the attack: "It's totally heartbreaking.

"This is the kind of thing we would see 20, 30-years-ago.

"We've had a lot of support from people, which is reassuring, and we know that just one idiot or the minority don't speak for everybody.

"We know everything that's been going on with the EU referendum and Brexit, but we need to come together."

Monir Ahmed, community co-ordinator for Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre, said: "Sunderland is a multi-cultural city and has been for a long time.

"People have been saying in comments that it's been over-exaggerated, but it hasn't.

"For anyone to be verbally or physically abused is not acceptable."