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Teenager sentenced over attack on rabbi who was struck with a brick

A teenager who punched a rabbi has been sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court (Chris Radburn/PA)
A teenager who punched a rabbi has been sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court (Chris Radburn/PA)

A teenager who punched a rabbi to the ground before he was struck over the head with a brick has been sentenced to three years and seven months in a young offender institution.

Rabbi Rafi Goodwin was driving his car, with his three children aged two, four and five in the back, in Chigwell in north-east London when two men walked from behind a parked van into the path of his car, causing him to brake.

The judge, Recorder Richard Conley, said the two men, 19-year-old Souraka Djabouri and a second man who has not been identified, then embarked on an “ugly and shameful course of conduct”, damaging Mr Goodwin’s car, attacking him and stealing his phone.

“The reason for this behaviour was the fact you and your associate recognised Mr Goodwin was a member of the Jewish faith,” the judge, sitting at Chelmsford Crown Court, said.

The judge said one of the men shouted “he’s a Jew” during the incident, at around 1pm on May 16 last year.

He said Djabouri denied it was him, but that Mr Goodwin recalled that the person who made the remark was the same person who spat on his windscreen.

DNA testing established it was Djabouri who spat on the windscreen, the judge said.

He said Djabouri kicked the car’s wing mirror, which snapped off, and the other man kicked the car door.

The judge said that one of Mr Goodwin’s children asked Mr Goodwin “why are they kicking the car”.

“Mr Goodwin told them he didn’t know, but of course he did know, it was because they were Jews,” he said.

He said Mr Goodwin “bravely drove after” the two men and got out of his car to try to take photos of them on his phone.

The judge said Djabouri then began a “merciless assault, punching Mr Goodwin five times in the face until he fell to the floor”.

He said one of the two men then struck Mr Goodwin on the head with a brick and stole his phone, which had the photos on.

The phone has not been recovered.

“It’s nothing short of miraculous that Mr Goodwin didn’t sustain life-threatening or life-changing injuries,” the judge said.

He said both men “fled the scene leaving Mr Goodwin bleeding on the floor, not caring whether he was alive or dead or how serious his injuries may have been”.

He said the person who Mr Goodwin identified as being Djabouri was described by Mr Goodwin as “the main guy”.

The judge said his sentencing powers had been “significantly curtailed by the decision to accept a guilty plea to a considerably less serious” charge than what he had originally faced.

Djabouri, of Tudor Crescent, Ilford, east London, admitted at an earlier hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court to grievous bodily harm without intent.

This was an alternative to the more serious charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

The defendant also admitted to the theft of the phone and to the religiously aggravated criminal damage of the car.

The judge said he had “absolutely no doubt whatsoever” that Djabouri would have been facing a longer sentence if he had greater sentencing powers, and that Djabouri had played “a leading role in group activity”.

“Attacks on members of the Jewish community in this country are becoming increasingly and worryingly commonplace,” the judge said, adding that “unlike members of some other communities they’re easily identifiable by their clothing and appearance”.

Rachel Law, prosecuting, said one of the men had picked up a “concrete brick and repeatedly struck the back of Mr Goodwin’s head”.

Mr Goodwin needed stitches for his head wounds and now has scarring to his forehead.

In a victim personal statement read to the court by Ms Law, Mr Goodwin said that since the attack he has been “hypervigilant about who’s around me” and “looking over my shoulder”.

He said the incident was “distressing” for his family and that some members of the Jewish community had removed their Mezuzahs – parchment with scriptural verses in a decorative case – from their front doors.

Ms Law said Mr Goodwin had “fully recovered” from his injuries.

Mohammed Bashir, mitigating, said it was a “despicable offence” and Djabouri “shows a genuine level of remorse”.

The bearded defendant, who wore a grey tracksuit and had his dark hair in a ponytail, tried to catch the attention of his barrister from the secure dock after the judge read out his sentence.

Djabouri asked a question, and Mr Bashir told him: “I’ll tell you downstairs.”

A CPS spokesperson said: “Our decision-making in this case, which took into account the views of the victim and the police, was based on an assessment of whether we had a realistic prospect of conviction in accordance with our legal test.

“The CPS takes antisemitism extremely seriously because of the devasting impact it has on victims and wider society.

“Where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest, we will prosecute these cases.”