Man who firebombed community centre escapes jail

A man who admitted firebombing a former Methodist chapel as it was undergoing conversion to an Asian community centre walked free from court yesterday.

Anthony Foster, 38, from Falmouth, and another unknown man threw bottles filled with flammable liquid through a window at the building at Quenchwell, Carnon Downs, near Truro. Magistrates in Truro yesterday gave Foster an eight-week suspended sentence for arson, which met with “disappointment” from the police officer in charge of the case who said he believed the incidents were racially motivated.

Speaking after the hearing, Insp Mark Richards from Truro police said he did not think the Asian community would be reassured by the magistrates’ actions. He added: “I’m disappointed with an eight-week suspended sentence. We were treating this series of offences as religiously or racially motivated. Foster has made limited admissions to the court. I don’t think the community are under any misapprehensions about the motivation for some of the attacks that have taken place at Quenchwell.”

The targeted building was being renovated and Foster was caught on CCTV set up by police after the site was previously attacked and racist graffiti painted on the walls. At a previous hearing, Foster’s defence barrister Michael Gregson said Foster was helping a friend who said he had a grievance with a builder working on the site. Foster was unaware of the building’s former status as a chapel or of its conversion to an Asian community centre.

The court was told the site was subjected to a number of vandalism attacks in June and July of this year. [See here, here and here.]

Insp Richards said he did not think the Asian community would be reassured: “At the end of the day, we are talking about someone who has thrown two petrol bombs into a premises without checking who or what is in there.” The inspector sought to reassure people in the Asian community that the police were continuing to do everything they could to investigate and prevent other offences.

Western Morning News, 12 November 2008