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Teenager jailed for trying to remove Muslim mother's headscarf

Leighton MacKenzie carried out the religiously prejudiced attack at a shopping centre in Stirling.

Thistles: The incident happened inside the shopping centre.
Thistles: The incident happened inside the shopping centre. Google

A drunken teenager who grabbed a Muslim woman's headscarf and tried to rip it off as she shopped with her mother and baby has been jailed.

Leighton MacKenzie, 18, crept up behind Ghader Mashhadi as she strolled through the Thistles mall in Stirling, and tried to remove her religious headwear.

Stirling Sheriff Court heard that MacKenzie, who admitted assault aggravated by racial prejudice, claimed his actions were "just a prank".

Lindsey Brooks, prosecuting, said the incident happened at 2.45pm on April 18 last year.

Mrs Brooks said Ms Mashhadi, 27, was with her 50-year-old mother, and was pushing her baby in a pram.

The depute fiscal said: "She felt her Muslim headscarf being pulled and turned and saw the accused, who was with another male, who were laughing together, and at her.

"She was upset, and felt it was disrespectful to her religion."

Ms Mashhadi contacted security in the shopping centre, and staff checked CCTV. Of three cameras, one had caught the incident on video.

MacKenzie, who could be seen in the recording committing the offence, was traced a week later.

He told police it had been "a prank" and added: "It was stupid, aye."

MacKenzie, an apprentice joiner, of Keir Avenue, Raploch, Stirling, pleaded guilty to assaulting Ms Mashhadi by seizing her by the scarf and attempting to remove it, all aggravated by religious prejudice.

Defence solicitor Frazer McCready said MacKenzie "did not consider himself to be a racist" despite his guilty plea.

Mr McCready said: "He says he'd had a wee bit to drink.

"He is clearly an immature young man who is easily influenced when either with friends or intoxicated.

"He had been with friends in the Thistles Centre. They were larking about, as young men sometimes do at that age, and it would appear he was dared by one of his friends to carry out this act.

"At the time it was meant to be funny. It was meant to be a joke. He regrets and accepts that it was clearly disrespectful to the complainer and her religion."

The court heard that MacKenzie was already serving a sentence at Polmont Young Offenders' Institution in Stirlingshire after pleading guilty last week to breaching several community payback orders.

Sheriff Richard McFarlane sentenced MacKenzie to nine weeks' youth custody, reduced from three months on account of his guilty plea.

He said: "It was wholly obvious what this lady was wearing and why she was wearing it."

He added: "You are sadly a stark example of youths who drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol and get into trouble time and time again."

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