Cambridge man arrested after calling police officer “foreign”

Tristram Fane Saunders -Deputy News Editor 19 November 2012

A man has been tried in court and found guilty of racially aggravated harassment after calling a Cambridge policeman “foreign.” Paul Scott, 27, unemployed, was arrested after being thrown out of Revolution on Downing Street after his friend’s involvement in a late-night brawl. Outside the club, Scott and his friend were sprayed with PAVA incapacitant (AKA ‘pepper spray’) by local policemen. While temporarily blinded, Scott began swearing at PC Linas Pekarskas, and called Pekarskas “foreign.”

Following his trial at Cambridge Magistrates Court, Scott was initially fined £110 for his actions, and later fined an additional £100 after admitting that his words constituted ‘racially aggravated harassment.’ Though the word “foreign” might not be a racial slur in itself, Nicole Yates, mitigating, acknowledged that in this context her client’s use of the word should be considered a “slur,” “This not the most serious of racial slurs that has been said in this court, but equally it does not make it right. He could not see and he was in a situation that had got out of hand so he lashed out at a person he could only hear and used that word.”

Edwin Sung, an international student studying Mathematics at Peterhouse, disagreed with the idea that the word “foreign” should be considered a racial slur in itself. “I don’t really think it should. Its a pretty neutral term. Generalising and describing it as ‘racist’ would be an overreaction. But it does depend on the way your way of saying it. If you’re pairing it with insults, it becomes an insult. If someone said to me, ‘you F-ing foreigner,’ right in my face, then I would definitely take that as an ethnic slur.”

There is no consistent legal precedent for cases like Scott’s. The variability of “guilty” and “not guilty” verdicts in such cases is a cause for concern. In January this year, two policemen from Wiltshire Police were tried for racial abuse after calling a local pub doorman a “Polish bastard” and a “foreign bastard” while off-duty. Both policemen were found unanimously not guilty by the jury at Bristol Crown Court, following a defence hearing in which a fellow policeman dismissed their comments as “banter.”

Tristram Fane Saunders -Deputy News Editor