Representing himself in court, Graham French, 28, who had nailed the Qur’an on a pub wall apologised on February 12, saying: “I fully regret everything I have done. It is totally out of character and I will regret this for the rest of my life.
“I apologise to the owner of the building. I had issues with mental health and alcohol and I’m seeking help for the alcohol and I’m doing the best I can.”
Following protests by far-right groups over plans for a pub in Shotton Colliery, County Durham, to be transformed into a Muslim education centre, French nailed copy of the Qur’an to the derelict building and also wrote EDL twice with white paint on the wall of the former Melrose Arms on December 14.
Cleaning up the property could cost the owner, Kaiser Javeed Choudry, £500, Prosecutor Vicky Wilson told Peterlee Magistrate Court.
Following his arrest, French claimed his actions were part of a “revenge attack” after a woman in a burka followed him home from the pub. He pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage that was racially or religiously-aggravated, and was bailed on the condition that he is not to contact Choudry.
Choudry, a local business man, bought the building with plans of turning it into an education centre open to all faiths. He was granted permission by the authorities for the premises to be converted.
The plans were opposed by 200 EDL protestors in December 2012. Further protests took place in November and December last year, the latter of which caused some Muslims from the village to flee their homes temporarily due to safety fears.
Choudry’s nephew, Imran Nadeem, 38, who was working with his uncle on the centre’s development, said: “We are very scared. There has been a Muslim presence in Shotton for at least the last 23 years, there are about five or six families, and we have been a very peaceful community.”
“We will be leaving the area for our safety tomorrow,” he said on November 30, “and we are worried about our business.”
French was given a six-month community order with supervision and a one month curfew between 10.30pm and 7am. He was also ordered to pay £5 prosecution costs and a £60 victim surcharge.