A barrister representing a racist attacker who ripped a niqab off the face of a Muslim woman and shouted he was taking his country back has said it was no coincidence it occurred a few weeks after the Brexit vote.
Peter Scotter, 56, of Beach Street, Roker, Sunderland, assaulted the mother, who was shopping with her nine-year-old son and husband, and said: "You are in our country now, you stupid f****** Muslim."
The force he used to pull off the garment in July last year in the Bridges Shopping Centre, Sunderland, caused her to fall to the floor.
He continued to shout abuse, including "take that f***** off", "I'm taking my f****** country back" and "it's our Britain, stick by our rules, these black bastards with their masks and veils, I will pull them off every time".
Tony Hawks, defending, told Newcastle Crown Court that in the weeks leading up to the attack certain politicians and sections of the press had been "playing the race card".
He said there was "no doubt that what he did was an ignorant and despicable piece of behaviour" and he was an "ignorant and ill-educated man" who "knows nothing whatsoever about Islam".
But he added: "Its no coincidence that this occurred within a week or so of the Brexit referendum. Where the press and politicians were banging the drum about taking our country back.
"They were playing the race card and, in the case of Ukip, a disgraceful advertisement showing a queue of refugees.
"He has to take responsibility for his own actions, but is it simply a coincidence that after listening to weeks of that rhetoric the defendant was not affected?"
Prosecutor Neil Pallister told the court that Scotter was escorted out of the centre by a security guard after the assault, but refused to comply with two police community support officers and continued the torrent of abuse.
At a previous hearing he admitted racially aggravated assault by beating and racially aggravated harassment.
He has also been receiving treatment for cancer in his mouth, meaning the case has been postponed a number of times.
The court heard he had 70 previous convictions, including throwing bricks with racist stickers on them at a house with refugees inside.
Mr Pallister said the victim described how she regularly suffers abuse, but this was way beyond what she and her family normally endured.
She said it had left her fearful to go out and "disgusted" that it had happened in front of her son.
Members of the public who ran to her help spoke of their shock and one shop assistant said she was moved to tears.
Jailing Scotter for 15 months, Judge Stephen Earl said he had used "appalling language" in a public place.
He said: "Comments such as these cannot be acceptable in a civilised society."
He also ordered him to pay a victim surcharge of £140.