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Boss defends jailed employee

PUBLISHED: 00:16 02 June 2002 | UPDATED: 15:27 03 March 2010

A FELIXSTOWE haulage manager today spoke of his company's state of shock after his colleague was sent to prison for two years.

Robert Charles from Felixstowe, was convicted last week of causing actual bodily harm after what has been called a racially motivated attack in a shop in the town.

By NICK RICHARDS

nick.richards@eveningstar.co.uk>

A FELIXSTOWE haulage manager today spoke of his company's state of shock after his colleague was sent to prison for two years.

Robert Charles from Felixstowe, was convicted last week of causing actual bodily harm after an investigation into what was initially alleged to have been a racially motivated assault in a takeaway in the town.

Charles was out celebrating his 30th birthday when he became involved in a fracas in a Felixstowe kebab shop in the early hours of November 10 2001.

But today, Shaun Allen insisted his former workmate was not racist in any way and simply appeared to have been made an example of.

He said: "It is totally out of character, Rob is not a thug or a racist. He was just simply enjoying a night out and obviously felt he had a need to get involved in this incident.

"We are stunned by the severity of the sentence – it doesn't all make sense, when you consider that the victim did not have any stitches or broken bones."

Charles was an operations manager at the haulage company, having worked himself up from a dock runner.

"The sad thing is he had a really promising career and that has now been totally destroyed. We had no choice other than to let him go as he now has a criminal record. This sort of thing leaves his position untenable.

Charles was sent to Norwich Prison for two years, after a two-day trial at Bury St Edmunds Crown Court last week found him guilty. Mr Allen said he and his work colleagues were simply not expecting that kind of result.

"When we heard about the incident here, he told us he would be going to court, but we never expected this. We thought he would just get a slap on the wrist but nothing like this. The first I heard was a phone call from his parents and I was just stunned.

"It seems he has been made an example of and was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Mr Allen said that Charles only got married eight months ago and had worked at the haulage company for 12 years, joining them as a YTS trainee in 1989.

"This leaves behind a lot of mess – his wife has to pay the mortgage, we loose a valued member of staff and he has no way of contributing to the company or to Felixstowe in general. Nobody wins. It would have been far better to give him a massive fine and a year of community service, that way he could have kept his job.

"Either that or he could have worn an electronic tag. That would have been far more productive for the whole community. This whole incident has left Felixstowe with a stigma of a place where racist attacks happen. They don't. This is a safe place to live."

The owner of the kebab shop, who is of Turkish origin, refused to comment on the incident.

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