Fife man sentenced for attack on Muslim woman

A Fife drug addict who assaulted a Muslim woman by pulling a burka from her head has been sent to jail. Duncan Gandy grabbed the woman’s burka as she walked through the Kingdom Shopping Centre in Glenrothes last month, leaving her extremely distressed.

Sheriff Grant McCulloch told the 31-year-old accused, who was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of the incident, that custody was the only appropriate sentence for what he termed an offensive, frightening and demeaning attack.

Gandy, of Provosts Land, Leslie, appeared at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court on Tuesday after previously admitting assaulting Shaheen Khan by pulling her burka from her face and head. He was sentenced to 135 days in prison for the attack. He also admitted breaching bail conditions, for which he was sentenced to an additional 60 days.

Sheriff McCulloch pointed out that the accused had admitted a racially-aggravated assault, and added, “Suddenly, without warning, you pulled the burka from her face. That was clearly offensive, clearly frightening and clearly demeaning for her.

“There is no mitigation that can be put forward other than the fact you were under the influence of illegal substances. That, in my view, is an aggravation not a mitigation and I take the view that only a custodial sentence is appropriate.”

The sheriff said the sentence would have been 180 days had it not been for Gandy’s early guilty plea.

His jail term was welcomed by a Fife organisation promoting racial equality and awareness. Naeem Khalid, co-ordinator of Fairness, Race Awareness and Equality (FRAE) Fife, said Gandy had committed an attack on a vulnerable woman as well as on her faith.

“Everyone’s religion should be respected,” he said. “This was a disappointing event and there needs to be redress towards that. People must have the freedom to practice their religion and the freedom to express that.

“The burka is a principle of her faith and, for me, to remove that is attacking her faith and belief. She was a vulnerable female and the attack will have other repercussions as it will affect her confidence to walk in public.”

The Courier, 13 July 2011