Knifeman’s mosque attack wasn’t racist, says CPS

A judge slammed prosecutors today (Mon) for failing to charge a knifeman with racism after he screamed vile abuse at worshippers outside a mosque.

Jonathan Russell, 32, waved a blade at two men on their way to prayers before snarling: “Where’s Allah to protect you now?” But in a bizarre move, lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to class the crime as racially motivated because they said he was “commenting generally”.

Passing sentence, District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe demanded an explanation from the CPS, adding: “It’s remarkable that it wasn’t racially-aggravated. This was just outside a mosque.”

Russell targeted the men outside the Regent’s Park Mosque in central London. The episode unfolded while victims Yusuf Khan and Suliman Khan were in Park Road, St John’s Wood, on August 14 this year.

Carol Summers, prosecuting, said: “They were walking along the pavement when they became aware of this defendant talking very loudly. He was saying, ‘f***, where’s Allah to protect you now?’ and other things they couldn’t remember. But all of a sudden the defendant reached into his jacket pocket and took out a knife, a pocket knife, and he opened it and chased them.”

As Yusuf ran, he took off his coat and threw it on the floor, before Russell stopped and picked it up. “When he was asked to give it back, he threw the knife at Yusuf Khan,” said Ms Summers. “It landed on the ground and broke to pieces.”

Police arrested Russell, who was convicted of unlawful wounding in 2002, after finding him hiding in bushes nearby.

Jailing him for 50 weeks, Judge Roscoe told Russell he had caused a “very nasty and frightening incident.” She said: “While it might not have been a particularly robust knife, it was still presented in the presence of people, they saw it, and you chased after them. It may be that the racial rant was not directed at them, but your chasing after them came immediately after there had been this abuse of their religion.”

Russell, of (8) Swan Close, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, admitted theft, possessing an offensive weapon, and threatening behaviour.

Searchlight, 15 October 2012