Far-right member ‘sorry’ for nailing Koran to planned Muslim centre

Graham French leaving Peterlee Magistrates Court
Graham French leaving Peterlee Magistrates Court

A MEMBER of a far-right group who nailed a copy of the Koran to a planned Muslim centre has apologised to the building’s owner in court.

Graham French, 28, sprayed the letters EDL on the former Melrose Arms in Shotton Colliery after a former pub was granted planning permission for the multi-faith centre.

Peterlee Magistrates’ Court heard that French carried out the religiously-motivated vandal attack because he had a grievance with the building’s owner Kaiser Javeed Choudry and he wanted revenge.

But French told justices what he did was “totally out of character” and he would regret it for the rest of his life.

Blair Martin, prosecuting, said: “Mr French was identified as being responsible for that damage.

“He said he had a grievance with the injured party and decided to get his own back and had done so in this manner.”

According to information found on Facebook, French was a member of a group calling itself the Shotton Defence League, the court heard previously.

He pleaded guilty to racially or religiously aggravated criminal damage on December 13.

In a statement read in court, Mr Choudry said: “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 window which is an additional cost.”

Representing himself in court, French said: “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.

“I apologise for coming in front of you today. You will not be hearing anything else from me again.”

The court was previously told that Mr Choudry’s building had been targeted with spray paint and windows smashed amid local protests at the plans for the Muslim education centre.

French nailed an open copy of the Koran onto a wooden board covering a window and daubed EDL twice in white paint causing £500 of damage.

His palm print was found on the book after it was taken away for forensic analysis.

French, of Dene Crescent, Shotton Colliery, 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.

l In a separate case, police are investigating after religious phrases or imagery were daubed in white paint on the front of the former pub.

A Durham Police spokeswoman said: “The incident is believed to have happened sometime late on Friday, February 7, or the early hours of Saturday, February 8, and consisted of religious phrases or imagery being daubed in white paint on the front of the building.”

Witnesses should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.