Suzy Austin, Metro (London), June 24, 2008
A drunken teenager who beat up a priest walked free yesterday after the judge accepted the attack was a ‘one-off mistake’.
Babul Islam was one of three Asian youths who attacked Canon Michael Ainsworth in his churchyard.
The 19-year-old punched the vicar in the head while others kicked him, one allegedly shouting ‘f*****g priest’, only stopping when passers-by intervened.
His battered victim spent nearly two weeks in hospital after the assault, which prosecutor Carl May-Smith said ‘had a profound effect on him’.
The shop assistant admitted being extremely drunk during the attack but denied it was religiously-motivated , a claim upheld by Judge Glenn Brasse.
Islam and the two other assailants set upon Mr Ainsworth in March, leaving him with cuts and bruises. When the 57-year-old clergyman returned to the congregation at St George-In-The-East church in Shadwell, east London, his face was still swollen and he had black eyes.
Islam, of nearby Limehouse, deserved a prison term for his crimes, Judge Brasse told him at Snaresbrook Crown Court. But he was told ‘under the circumstances’ a four-month suspended sentence, paying his victim £1,000 and 100 hours of unpaid work would suffice.
In the days following the attack, the Rev Alan Green, Dean of Tower Hamlets, said there were ‘faith hate’ incidents in the area every month.
[Editor’s Note: Earlier stories about the attack on Michael Ainsworth can be read online here.]