Britain First supporter who tried to run over Muslim released after serving just 33 weeks

26th Jan 2018
Britain First supporter who tried to run over Muslim released after serving just 33 weeks

Marek Zakrocki (Photo: Metropolitan Police)

Elham Buaras

A Muslim restauranteur who narrowly escaped being run over by a van of a Britain First supporter has told The Muslim News of his dismay at the news his attacker walked free after serving just 33 weeks in prison for unrelated offences.

Marek Zakrocki, who drove at Kamal Ahmed after saying “I’m going to kill a Muslim” walked free on January 12 after serving his prison sentence while on remand for drink-driving and another unrelated charge.

“I don’t think enough justice has been done. He should have been jailed for two to three years,” said Ahmed.

The Old Bailey heard that Zakrocki also gave a Nazi salute and shouted “white power” before driving his van at Ahmed outside Spicy Night restaurant in Harrow, north-west London, on June 23.

The Polish-born window-fitter told a police officer while in his van: “I’m going to kill a Muslim. I’m doing it for Britain. This is how I’m going to help the country. You people cannot do anything.”Ahmed said it was a “racist and Islamophobic attack” as he said he was going to kill a Muslim.

Ahmed was going to give evidence in court about the attack on him. However, “the day before I had to give evidence, the police called me to say that Zakrocki has admitted guilt. No one got in touch with me to tell me that Zakrocki was going to be sentenced on January 12,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed said the attacker had approached him outside his restaurant and started arguing with him. He then left and returned driving a van. “He tried to run me down. I moved away and he smashed my shop’s window. It was a narrow escape.”

Zakrocki was sentenced to 33 weeks in jail after pleading guilty in December to dangerous driving, one week for battery against his wife and six weeks for drink-driving, with the latter term to run concurrently.

The 48-year-old was initially also accused of attempted murder and three racially aggravated offences but those charges were not pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Further charges of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm and having a knife in a public place were ordered to lie on file.

When armed officers arrested Zakrocki, they found a Nazi coin in his pocket and a number of flyers for the far-right group Britain First and newspapers at his home in Harrow.

The court heard he had been drinking heavily that day and had grabbed his wife’s arm and threatened to kill people and then himself. Before driving at Ahmed he had pushed an unknown Asian man and shouted “white power, white power”.

A spokesperson for anti-hate campaigners HOPE not Hate told The Muslim News, “On the face of it, it does seem surprising that Marek Zakrocki’s sentence appeared so ‘light’, so it’s understandable why the Muslim community might be concerned by this sentence. It seems that police expected a longer sentence.

“However, he’d already served time on remand and the judge seems to have believed that alcohol consumption and addiction played a significant role in his actions.”

“Regardless, it sets a deeply worrying precedent that there are people out there willing to assault or attack Muslims, regardless of whether they have consumed intoxicating substances or not, in incidents which could have much greater tragic consequences.”

The Muslim Council of Britain raised concerns that anti-Muslim violence may not be treated seriously and potentially demonstrates a worrying double standard.

Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain Harun Khan, told The Muslim News, “It is inconceivable that a Muslim who committed such an act would have got away with such a sentence and without terrorism even being discussed.”

He added, “Furthermore, there was no uplift to the sentence to reflect the unambiguous aggravated religious nature of this crime (Section 145 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003). We cannot continue to take anti-Muslim violence lightly. We call on the CPS to seek to appeal this sentence and ask the Ministry of Justice to review this matter and take appropriate steps”.

Muslim Council of Britain ’s stance is supported by prosecutor Denis Barry, who told the court that: “It’s plain that his conduct is very likely to have been motivated by his views about our diverse society.”

Barry said Zakrocki had been fixated by Muslims and had made donations to Britain First. The far-right group gained international notoriety when it was re-tweeted by Donald Trump. Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, its leaders, have been charged by police in Northern Ireland in connection with alleged hate speeches they made in Belfast. Both deny the charges.

A CPS spokesperson told The Muslim News: “Prosecutors must keep cases under continual review in order to take account of any change in circumstances as they develop, including what becomes known of the defence case. If appropriate, the CPS may amend the charges as a result.

“Following one of these reviews and with the consent of the judge, some of the initial charges against Marek Zakrocki were not taken forward as there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.
“At his sentencing, the CPS reminded the court that his actions were religiously motivated and the judge addressed that motivation in his sentencing remarks.”

Judge Anthony Leonard QC told Zakrocki that he had concluded that he was trying to cause physical harm when he mounted the pavement in his van but that his behaviour was driven largely by his excessive alcohol consumption.

The judge said: “These events are the result of you having drunk up to two bottles of wine, which you knew would affect you seriously because of your chronic alcoholism.”

Zakrocki had a previous conviction for assaulting a police officer, also while drunk, in 2011.
Leonard said the offences were committed at a time of “heightened tensions” due to the van attack on Muslims outside Finsbury Park mosque in London.

The judge said he had taken into account Britain First literature found at Zakrocki’s home but that he was not a member of any far-right organisation.

The incident was investigated by officers from Harrow Community Safety Unit, with the support of officers from the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command. He was charged on 25 June.
DC Georgina Acuna, the investigating officer from Harrow Community Safety Unit, said: “I was expecting a slightly longer custodial sentence.”

In an earlier statement, she said, “Zakrocki deliberately armed himself with a knife on Friday, 23 June and told both his family and officer that he intended to harm someone for their religious beliefs.

“This was a terrifying ordeal for the witnesses and victims. Zakrocki was almost three times over the drink-driving limit and it was through pure good-fortune that no one was injured during his rampage. Hate crime, in all its forms, will not be tolerated and offenders such as Zakrocki will be brought to justice.”

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