A brave bus passenger who challenged a woman’s drunken, racist rant was attacked and spat on, Newbury magistrates have been told. Afterwards, fellow Thatcham travellers praised victim Christine Dare’s courageous stand. Miss Dare later told police: “I had to act. It was too much to ignore.”
In the dock on Thursday, July 10, was 35-year-old Tara Elaine King, of Fallows Road, Padworth. Helen Waite, prosecuting, said Ms King was talking to the bus driver in Thatcham, loudly praising the English Defence League, making racist comments and swearing. Several passengers were incensed, said Ms Waite, “but it was Ms Dare who had the gumption to do something about it”.
Having vainly asked Ms King to keep her opinions to herself and moderate her language because there was a young child nearby, Ms Dare approached the driver and asked him to act, magistrates were told. But, said Ms Waite, the driver told her to sit down – and when she did, Ms King approached, leaned over and spat on her.
Ms Dare said later: “I was horrified by her actions. I pushed her away, but she was shouting and came at me again; there was a scuffle and I grabbed her hair.”
Ms Waite said: “Very unedifying CCTV footage shows them hanging on to each other’s heads. The defendant was on top of her in her seat. She grabbed Ms Dare’s face and scratched it. The bus pulled into a layby and a man came to Ms Dare’s assistance. Police were called and, as she was led away, she told Ms Dare: ‘Look at my face so I can remember you.’”
Passenger Jodie Conyard said she was offended by Ms King’s racist remarks about Muslims and another, John Young, said he was upset to hear a “drunken” Ms King make derogatory comments about black people.
Both praised Ms Dare and offered to give evidence on her behalf when Ms King initially denied assault by beating. However she later changed her plea to guilty, while not accepting that she spat on Ms Dare.
Although Ms Waite said the Crown stood by its version of events, the court ruled there was no need for a Newton hearing – a mini trial to establish the facts – because the matter would not make a substantial difference to their sentence. They therefore agreed to accept Ms King’s basis of plea.
She admitted causing racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress, both at Bath Road, Thatcham, on November 2 last year. Her previous convictions include a racially-aggravated offence, the court heard.
Ben Henriques, defending, said his client suffers post traumatic stress disorder since losing a child 11 years ago. He added: “There was a two-way struggle. It’s clear from the CCTV. She realises alcohol is a problem and, because she is six months pregnant, has been making strenuous efforts to overcome it.” He said his client felt she had been provoked, and asked for pre-sentence reports.
Presiding magistrate Sue Campbell said: “This was a very distressing, offensive and unpleasant incident which took place in public. There are many aggravating features… all options remain open, including custody.” Ms King was bailed until July 31 while reports are prepared.
This, by the way, is how King lost her child. Thatcham has been subjected to a number of EDL demonstrations against the supposed presence of “Muslim grooming gangs” in the town, resulting in criminal charges against some of the participants.