A 71-year-old man in Somerset who referred to his former care worker as “a typical thieving Nigerian criminal”, after claiming she had stolen thousands of pounds from him, has been fined after a judge said his ill health prevented him doing any other sentence in the community.
William Harding also wrote in a note which was received by Yeovil County Court: “I don’t think God made a much worse race than Nigerians. I’ve never seen an honest one yet.”
The wheelchair-bound defendant, of Hales Meadow, Mudford, previously pleaded not guilty to the offence.
However, he was convicted in his absence following a trial before Somerset Magistrates and he was sentenced in his absence by District Judge David Taylor, sitting at Yeovil, after he was unable to attend the court for health reasons.
Prosecutor Emma Lenanton said that the victim was a Nigerian lady, who started working for a company that Harding was involved with, and he was withholding some of her wages claiming she had not passed on a sum of cash he had asked her to.
Because of the dispute, she took the matter to a small claims court to try and recover her money, and in September 2014 she was provided with a copy of the papers completed by Harding.
Miss Lenanton said: “Among the papers was a hand-written note from Harding making various comments, including that she was ‘a typical thieving Nigerian criminal, let’s see the bitch in court.’.
“He then wrote: ‘She’s a typical thieving, lying Nigerian, why we let them in the country I don’t know. I don’t think God made such a worse race than the Nigerians, I’ve never come across an honest one yet.'”
The complainant was distressed by the content of the letter, and in January 2015 the judge involved in the county court case halted the proceedings saying the case was “so infused with racial hatred”.
In a victim impact statement made by the victim, she said that she was a religious woman and had been greatly affected by Harding’s accusations of theft against her.
She wrote: “He refused to pay me my wages and I was put in a position of vulnerability when I was not able to pay my rent, which forced me to leave my home and I had to live with my sister.
“I am also afraid of going into town where I could possibly meet Harding and fear I would suffer further racial abuse.
“I have found the whole experience deeply distressing and have been prescribed anti-depressants and been referred for counselling.
“It has had a profound effect on my life, and his racial abuse has been generalised against all Nigerians, which I find distressing and question how he can make such generalised accusations on my race without justification.”
Defending solicitor Chris Ivory said that Harding had set up a care organisation for a decade, where he had employed in excess of 50 different types of minority backgrounds, including Nigerians and South Africans, and this was the first time a complainant had been raised about racial slurs.
“However, they were very unpleasant and my client is no longer living independently, and is in receipt of benefits for physical and mental health difficulties,” he said.
“He is living in supported accommodation with 24 hour care, and there has been no direct contact with the victim after the remarks, which were made more than two years ago.”
District Judge Taylor said he was sentencing Harding in his absence as he was not fit to attend court in the foreseeable future and he had previously given his consent.
“He made some appalling observations that were racially insulting to the whole Nigerian race, and he does not resile from those views and still considers his behaviour was entirely justified,” he said.
“However, the lady had been abused in an unacceptable way and I have no doubt that these comments contributed to her distress.”
He fined Harding £300 for the offence and ordered him to pay £200 compensation to the victim to reflect her distress and for harassing her with racial abuse. He was also ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge but no order was made for costs.