Cheltenham man jailed for racially abusing a John Lewis security guard
By Court reporter | 14th August 2023
A 49-year-old Cheltenham man has been jailed for three months for racially abusing a John Lewis store security guard who he wrongly believed was Albanian.
Prosecutor Simon Goodman explained to Gloucester Crown Court on Friday (August 12) that Desmond Thompson of Pitman Road, St Marks, had gone into the John Lewis store in Cheltenham on November 4, 2022, and was looking around the shop's perfumery department in what the security officers described as being in a suspicious manner.
Mr Goodman said Thompson was being observed as a known shoplifter who was recognised by the security officers at the store.
Mr Goodman said: "When he was challenged, Thompson behaved aggressively towards one officer and began swearing at him."
"Thompson continued swearing at the officer, who he believed was Albanian. He told him he should go back home to Albania. He threatened to smash the shop up and told the officer that he and his countrymen had come over here and taken our jobs.
"The security guard told Thompson he was actually of Polish decent and not Albanian. Thompson replied: 'Well, you're still not English are you mate?'.
"Thompson then started waving his arms around as he was escorted to the front door, which attracted the attention of a police officer. His actions also began worrying the store's customers."
The court heard that Thompson was arrested and taken into custody and interviewed. He was later released on conditional bail and at court he elected to stand trial by jury at the crown court.
Caitlin Evans defending Thompson said that he has been off drugs for five years, and had lived until recently in a building used by abusive drug addicts.
She said he compensated for the drugs by binging on alcohol, but he is prepared to work with probation to resolve this problem if he retains his liberty today.
Ms Evans explained that Thompson is the main carer for his partner, and his mother, who has recently suffered multiple strokes and added: "He is very remorseful over his actions."
Thompson pleaded guilty to the racially aggravated harassment of a security guard at John Lewis store in Cheltenham on November 4, 2022.
Judge Rupert Lowe told Thompson: "You have 182 previous convictions. That is an enormous number of offences. Three of these are for racially aggravated offences.
"People who work in security, in which ever role they have, are in that position because of people like you. They are there to try and protect the shop, in this instance, from preventing people walking out of the store without paying for items, which luckily you didn't do on this occasion, but you've done it on numerous times before.
"In the end, everybody pays for your behaviour - the store itself, the police, the courts- but it seems not you. The security guards knew of your reputation and were quite right to suspect that you might be up to no good. You are the sort of person they should be watching.
"The security officers didn't know if you were going to produce a knife out of your pocket, or a needle, or spit at them when you were challenged.
"You denied racially abusing the security officer and chose to stand trial by jury. That was until you saw the CCTV from the store. You are not the first person who is surprised to see the evidence, which differs from their own memory.
"I understand that your drug use has ceased but you have made up for this by becoming alcohol dependant.
"On May 12, 2022, at Cheltenham Magistrates Court you were made subject to a six month conditional discharge for being drunk and disorderly. You would have been in breach of this when you committed this offence in November.
"Because of your previous criminal record and you committed this offence during the conditional discharge, I have no option to impose an immediate prison sentence of three months. I hope this period in custody will give you an opportunity to wean yourself of alcohol and make a fresh start on your release."
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