A man who assaulted an Italian driver on a night out in Lancaster was not racially motivated, a court has heard.
Liam James Knowles, 23, of Easington, Lancaster, pleaded guilty to punching Andrei Strugariu in the face on June 13 last year.
Knowles was also charged with racially aggravated assault but this was dropped during the trial at Lancaster Magistrates Court on Thursday (January 25).
It had been alleged that Knowles and co-defendant, Jimmy Lee Corbett, chanted ‘EDL’ (English Defence League – a far right group) after the assault, which happened between 11pm and midnight.
Knowles and Corbett approached Andrei and girlfriend Roxanna Ghergalas as the couple were eating in their car on Penny Street.
Prosecuting, Mr Vincent Yip said that during the attack the words “n*****” and “P***” were used towards Andrei.
But the court heard Knowles had not been involved in the chanting and racist remarks.
“I am not a racist person, it wasn’t me making those comments, I have no issues with any cultures, in my eyes it was a bit of banter, it was just taken a bit too far,” said Knowles.
Defending, Miss Rebecca Seymour said: “This was an isolated incident caused by another, Mr Knowles was trying to prevent anything from happening.
“He accepts he punched the complainant which he shouldn’t have done, he could have walked away.”
Victim Andrei, who suffered a cut on his face from the attack, told magistrates it came after a bottle was thrown at the car.
“I got out of the car to check if there was any damage,” he said.
“I try to go back to the car when these two guys come over. [Knowles] was behind him, [Corbett] was saying ‘what are you doing in my country?’
“One of them makes racist comments to me.
“Roxanna ran to the police, [Corbett] comes up and punches me once and I move back three steps then [Knowles] punches me and I fall on the floor and blacked out for two to three seconds.”
A number of witnesses gave evidence during the trial including security doormen, Philip Lewis and Benjamin Noon, who saw the assault.
Mr Noon said: “It was like a male ritual, you could see both of them working each other up as they were chanting, it was like a celebration.”
But Mr Lewis was adamant he only saw Corbett chanting ‘EDL’.
Knowles was found guilty of assault and ordered to pay £100 compensation and £295 costs, which also includes previous non-payments of court costs.
Jimmy Lee Corbett, 25, of Brindle Mews, Lancaster, appeared in court on November 20, charged with racially aggravated assault.
He was given a community order, curfew for three months with electronic tag and ordered to pay £100 compensation.