Race row neighbour brandished pickaxe handle in Sunderland dispute

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A MAN wielded a pickaxe handle during a dispute with neighbours sparked by an alleged racist comment, a court was told.

Michael Ross, 33, from Pallion, confronted the man who had claimed Ross’s friends verbally abused him and his family.

Prosecutor Paul Anderson told Sunderland Magistrates’ Court trouble quickly flared between the two men.

He said: “The defendant did not take too kindly to the victim speaking to him.

“He was aggressive, rude and threatening.

“There was no apology and he became increasingly aggressive.

“He was standing upright, his chest was out and his shoulders were back.

“He was literally shouting in his face.”

The neighbour went back into his home to call the police.

But while he was on the phone, he heard shouting outside and saw Ross outside holding a length of wood, shouting and swearing, until police arrived and arrested him.

Ross, of Brady Street, admitted a public order offence and possession of an offensive weapon.

Mitigating, Tom Morgan said Ross was not usually an aggressive man.

“He is normally so laid-back that he is horizontal,” he said.

“He came to our office after this incident and was visibly upset.

“I think there have been some hurtful comments made in his direction.

“He has driven into the street in his car and a comment has been alleged to have been made from his vehicle.

“However, he was not aware of this. The alleged comment was a racial slur and he finds that particularly offensive, because three close relatives of his, by marriage, are Muslim and people of foreign nationality.

“He has close relationships with those people and respects their religious choices and their cultural heritage.”

Mr Morgan added that Ross armed himself with a pickaxe handle, as his neighbour was much bigger than him, but he had no intention of using it.

“He is not someone who walks around the streets of Sunderland with a pickaxe handle on a daily basis.”

Magistrates also heard that Ross, who is a former heroin addict, was subject to a suspended sentence for theft and similar offences. They deferred sentencing for three months and asked the Probation Service to prepare a report, looking at all sentencing options, including a prison term.