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Newcastle Woman Charged with Common Assault Against Hijab-Wearing Student

Newcastle Woman Charged with Common Assault Against Hijab-Wearing Student

The North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court sentenced a 25-year-old woman from Newcastle to jail on grounds of common assault, after she threw a cup of alcohol to a student wearing the hijab while walking down Newcastle’s Westgate Road. The attacker, Shannon Thorpe, was sentenced in-absentia after she failed to show up to the court, as well for breaching community order by not attending appointments with Probation.

Attacker claimed that it was “raining”

The incident took place in April 2019. The unnamed victim was walking down Westgate Road on early evening when she felt like she had been “splashed with water.” Turning around, she saw Thorpe, who was holding a dripping plastic cup. The victim confronted Thorpe who claimed that it was raining even though it was not. Thorpe subsequently accused the victim of harassing her, before the police was called in.

In court, Thorpe’s lawyer said that Thorpe was an alcoholic, but had made progress towards reducing her alcohol intake. However, the court warned that Thorpe had been failing to attend probation meetings for a previous offence, sentencing her to 20 weeks and £150 compensation for common assault. District Judge, Sarah Griffiths, warned Thorpe to take responsibility for her actions, warning that throwing a cup of alcohol at someone she didn’t know is an unacceptable conduct.

Has rising Islamophobia in the UK generated a sense of impunity?

There is no direct evidence that Thorpe’s attack was racially motivated. During the incident, Thorpe is not recorded to have made remarks about the victim’s race or religion. However, the attack took place on a year of heavy Islamophobic attacks, coming after when the now-Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, wrote his infamous “letter box” article about Muslim women in niqabs in August 2018. In the aftermath of the article, Islamophobic attacks were reported to have risen by a stark 375%, with many such abuse directly referencing Johnson’s comments. Among the attacks was a case in London’s Walthamstow where the attacker tore off a woman’s niqab while shouting at her to ‘go back to your country’,

This trend also reflected into incidents where places of worship were attacked or vandalised, including in 2020 when a building near a London mosque in Brixton was vandalised with Islamophobic graffiti. Thorpe’s blatant attempt to deny any wrongdoing during the incident, followed by an attempt at victim-blaming shows that even absent of any direct Islamophobia, the normalisation of Islamophobic rhetoric can make Muslims more vulnerable to petty crimes, as perpetrators have a higher chance of getting away with their crimes.

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