A Sunderland bar owner who told his Polish neighbour to ‘go back to your own country’ has walked free from court – after magistrates decided his comments weren’t racially motivated.
Sean Maddison, 41, who runs Gin & Bear It, in High Street West, successfully argued that he would have used the phrase, regardless of the woman’s background.
The incident, which is not disputed, happened at the rear of Polish supermarket Polskie Smakolyki, which is next door to Gin & Bear it.
Mr Maddison, of Aylesford Mews, Sunderland, had denied causing racially or religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress, as well as an alternative charge of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour.
Sunderland magistrates heard a neighbour dispute over bins and access to a rear yard had escalated over a number of weeks.
Both Mr Maddison and complainant Karolina Osmak said in evidence that a number of previous disagreements had taken place between the parties.
I would say the same to an English person. If you don’t like it here, go live somewhere the rules are differentSean Maddison
Mr Maddison, who also runs Bar Justice over the road, said he needed the rear gate to be left open, to allow an escape route from a fire exit. However, Miss Osmak said her family had bought the yard from Mr Maddison’s landlord and he needed to make alternative arrangements.
She said Mr Maddison had used the blue bins her parents’ business paid for, to dump bottles, and that he was storing his own bins in their yard.
Things came to a head on Sunday, March 6, when Mr Maddison – who agreed he was frustrated – arrived at the door to the Osmaks’ flat above their shop, demanding access to the yard.
In footage filmed on a relative’s mobile phone, which was shown in court, Miss Osmak and other family members, were seen following him down the external stairs as she tried to reason with him.
Following a heated discussion, Mr Maddison, who appeared agitated, swore loudly several times before telling Miss Osmak: “Go back to your own country.”
Voices in the background then appeared to be taunting Mr Maddison for using ‘the race card’.
Miss Osmak said she was taken aback by the comment.
Speaking from the witness box, she said: “We contribute to this country, we pay our taxes. We do our best, we set up a business here.
“I don’t see how we have any less right to live here than an English person.”
Taking to the witness box, Mr Maddison said in his evidence: “If you don’t like the laws, go back to your own country. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t want to abide by what all of us have to, go back to your country.
“I employ Polish people, I employ Greek people, I employ Spanish people. I wouldn’t employ them if I was a racist.
“I think what I said is justified by how angry I was, because how long it had gone on for.
“I would say the same to an English person. If you don’t like it here, go live somewhere the rules are different, I would say exactly the same. If you don’t like our rules, you can leave.”
Bench chairman John Cowley said: “From the evidence we’ve heard we note that the prosecution and the defence are agreed that the defendant did say ‘go back to your own country’.
“What is in dispute is whether it was racially motivated or that the defendant caused harassment, alarm or distress.
“Mr Maddison was walking away from the scene and other persons were following him. We believe Mr Maddison’s explanation of the context as to why these words about leaving this country was explained.
“We find the case dismissed.”