Trial of men accused of racially-aggravated harassment of Muswell Hill councillor on the Northern Line begins
PUBLISHED: 17:12 29 September 2020 | UPDATED: 17:12 29 September 2020
Muswell Hill councillor Julia Ogiehor told Guildford Crown Court this week that she had been subjected to a racist “tirade” while on a Northern Line tube in June 2019.
Cllr Ogiehor gave evidence at the trial of two men – Gary Forbes and Mark Lewis – who are accused of a racially-aggravated public order offence against her.
Mr Lewis, 53, of High Road in Whetstone, is also charged with racially aggravated common assault and assault by beating.
Both he and Mr Forbes, 48 and of Ballards Lane, Finchley, deny the offences, arguing they had simply been interested in Cllr Ogiehor’s background.
In front of Judge Robert Fraser, the councillor told the jury she was listening to the Beach Boys and making her way home from an after-work drink with her boss when the incident occurred.
“I saw him waving at me. I assumed they must want directions, and I removed my headphones – and he asked me where I was from,” she said. “I responded London, but he said: ‘No, but where are you really from?’”
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The Liberal Democrat councillor, who was a prospective parliamentary candidate in Camberwell and Peckham at the last election, added: “I was fed up, to be honest. I said ‘why are you asking that?’ And he just responded saying: ‘I’m just interested.’”
She told the court she put her headphones back on, only to stop her music and take them off again when the two men continued to gesticulate in her direction, as if they were talking about her.
She added: “Then I could actually hear, and my suspicions were right because they were trying to guess where in Africa I was from. One was saying ‘potentially Kenya’.
“I took my earphones off and said: ‘Are you being serious right now?’”
Cllr Ogiehor said the confrontation continued until she left the tube at East Finchley station. She said both she and bystanders tried to “defuse the situation” to no avail.
“I did answer the question,” she said. “I did tell them where I was from, but obviously that didn’t satisfy them because a woman like me can’t possible be from London.”
John Carmichael, prosecuting, opened the trial on Monday saying: “The crown would argue this was harassment with a racial overtone ringing clear.”
The trial continues.
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