Ex-soldier spared jail for racial abuse

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AN ex-soldier has been spared jail for hurling a shocking “torrent of racial abuse” at two young Asian sisters.

Aaron McKenzie twice rode at the terrified women, who were pushing a toddler in a pushchair, on his bike, almost hitting them. He repeatedly called them “scum and vermin” and told them they needed a smack in the “outrageous” morning outburst, Burnley Crown Court heard.

McKenzie, now a bricklayer, served in the Army two years before “deliberately engineering” a dishonourable discharge after his friend was killed in action in Afghanistan.

McKenzie, who has no previous convictions, explained his behaviour against the women by saying he “just broke.” The two victims themselves had not sought to make a complaint, but he had been arrested after bystanders called the police. The defendant (22), of Albion Street, Brierfield, admitted racially aggravated fear or provocation of violence. He received 52 weeks in prison, suspended for a year, with six months supervision. McKenzie must also pay £350 costs.

Miss Sarah Statham (prosecuting) said the women were wearing traditional Asian dress. They were pushing a two-year-old child. They were walking along the road when McKenzie, riding a bike on the pavement, appeared and seemed angry. He rode almost at them, but then swerved so he missed them. He then began to mimic their accents and came out with a “torrent of racial abuse.”

Miss Statham said the women tried to ignore him and one asked what his problem was. He told them: “You lot are my problem and you need a smack.” He then punched his fist into his palm. The victims carried on walking, but McKenzie continued to shout abuse. One witness heard him refer to the women as “scum and vermin”.

The prosecutor said the sisters, scared and shocked, sought refuge in a shop. Police traced the defendant as he had been to a cash point and was also captured on CCTV. He was arrested and accepted he had been angry that day.

Mr Philip Holden, for McKenzie, described the incident as “very unpleasant indeed,” said the court would no doubt be considering custody, but there were “compelling” reasons to suspend the sentence.

The barrister added: “He has accepted without reservation how poor his behaviour actually was and that bodes well for intervention from the probation service.”

Mr Holden said McKenzie’s conduct seemed out of character. The defendant had done a six-month tour of Afghanistan in the Army. The barrister continued: “Certainly there have been problems with alcohol, but a short prison sentence would do little to assist the public long term in that regard.”

Sentencing, Judge Beverley Lunt, who had read a psychiatric report, told McKenzie: “The courts will not tolerate such outrageous, offensive and racist behaviour on our streets.”

She said: “It’s a very unusual set of circumstances. Behaviour like this must, of course, attract a prison sentence. There is no question about that.”

But, Judge Lunt added, if she imposed a 12-month jail term, he would not serve half of that, would be released and tagged within weeks. He would have no job. She told the defendant: “You are not a danger to the public. You have got your problems, but they are capable of solution, if you will just talk to people, perhaps some counselling. You need to take control of your life now and you cannot go on behaving like this.”