Far-right member nailed copy of Koran onto pub earmarked to be Muslim centre and daubed ‘EDL’ on wall

Peterlee Magistrates Court . Picture by FRANK REID
Peterlee Magistrates Court . Picture by FRANK REID

A MEMBER of a far-right group has admitted nailing a copy of the Koran onto a pub earmarked for a controversial Muslim education centre and daubing the letters ‘EDL’ on the wall.

Graham French, 28, defaced the former Melrose Arms, in Shotton Colliery, in December, after plans for the property sparked demonstrations in the village last year when planning permission to change the use of the building was granted.

Since buying the property, local businessman Kaiser Javeed Choudry has been a “repeat victim of crime”, Peterlee magistrates heard.

Prosecutor Vicky Wilson said there had been great opposition leading to protests and Mr Choudry’s property had been targeted with spray paint and windows had been smashed.

Ms Wilson said the incidents have taken the form of criminal damage, his property being damaged with spraypaint and having windows broken.

On December 14, she said ‘EDL’ had been twice daubed in white paint on the building, causing £500 of damage, and an open Koran had been nailed onto a wooden board covering a window.

“Police took the Koran for forensic analysis and found several links to the defendant, including a palm print on the page ” Ms Wilson said.

She added that, according to information found on facebook, French, of Dene Crescent, Shotton, is a member of a group calling itself the Shotton Defence League.

When French was arrested, Ms Wilson said he fully admitted responsibility for the damage. He told police it was a revenge attack after he was followed home from the pub one day, by a female wearing a Burka.

A victim statement from Mr Choudry was read out in court. It read: “The whole situation has got me upset. We are trying to improve the building and make the area better.

“It has cost me a lot of money to fix the damage and I will have to put shutters on the windows which is an additional cost.”

French pleaded guilty causing racially or religiously aggravated criminal damage.

French’s solicitor Jaxon Taylor said the damage involved “a small amount of graffiti” and disputed that it could have cost £500 to fix.

He said his client had not been before the court for ten years and that he has alcohol and mental health problems.

Adjourning the case for a pre-sentence report to be prepared, chairman of the bench, David Carr, said: “We must take into consideration the racially and religiously aggravated element in this case.

“No only is the daubing of the words racially aggravated but the nailing of the Koran to the wall makes it even worse.”

French was released on conditional bail that he does not contact Mr Choudry and will be sentenced on February 12.