Luke Salkeld, Daily Mail (London), Jan. 16, 2007
A Judge stunned his courtroom yesterday with an outspoken attack on the prosecution of a man who racially abused an Asian doctor.
Paul Darlow was hearing the case against Matthew Stiddard, who was charged after calling a police surgeon a “****ing Paki”.
The judge condemned the case as “nonsense” and said Dr Imraan Jhetam should have let the insult “roll off his back”.
When a prosecution lawyer insisted the doctor was entitled to protection from racial abuse, the judge remarked: “Next time call him a fat bastard and don’t say anything about his colour.”
Last night Dr Jhetam, a South African who is 5ft 4in and 15st, refused to comment.
But colleagues at Devon Police jumped to his defence and said judges should not be undermining the “dangerous” job of a police doctor.
Lawyers at Exeter Crown Court were clearly surprised by Judge Darlow’s remarks in the case, in which Stiddard had pleaded guilty to causing racially aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress.
The judge said it was inappropriate for the court to be dealing with a verbal insult and that to charge 36-year-old Stiddard for his comments was a “nonsense”.
“I wonder what this is doing in the Crown Court,” he said.
“This was a single sentence to a man who should not have taken it so seriously.
“He is a man of some considerable standing in society and I cannot see that it caused him any distress or hurt.
“To charge it in the first place rather than say let it go by with a caution strikes me as rather odd.
“We let people hit each other and break into people’s homes and they are not charged.”
Prosecutor Ann Reddrop hit back, saying: “When there is a burglary and it is in the public interest there will be a prosecution. This was a police surgeon and he is entitled to the same protection as anyone else.”
The judge replied: “So next time call him a fat bastard and don’t say anything about his colour.
“When we have an overstretched police force and an overstretched CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) one wonders why we are sitting here with long faces dealing with one verbal sentence.”
The court heard that the abusive comments came after Stiddard had spent time in a pub near his home in Dawlish, Devon.
Several police officers arrived and asked him to step outside where, the court heard, he became abusive and aggressive, leading to his arrest for public disorder.
Stiddard was taken to the police station where he later complained of back pains and asked to see a doctor.
When Dr Jhetam arrived, Stiddard shouted: “**** off you Paki. I want an English doctor, not a ****ing Paki”.
Judge Darlow gave him a two-year conditional discharge and ordered him to pay £45 towards prosecution costs of £150.
The doctor’s police colleagues questioned the wisdom of the judge’s comments last night.
“This man was extremely aggressive to Dr Jhetam, who deserves protection in what can be a difficult and dangerous job,” said one.
“That sort of abuse cannot be tolerated and should not be undermined by a judge.”
But Judge Darlow defended his remarks last night, saying they were “not intended to make light of racist remarks”.
But when “made by a drunk towards an obviously highly professional, educated and respected member of society in a position of clear authority over the defendant, I found it hard to conceive that it could be taken as seriously upsetting abuse.”