Couple convicted of racial abuse

ONE word has destroyed an Ipswich couple's life.Convicted of calling an 11-year-old boy a term of racial abuse, they today spoke of their remorse – and say they would sooner move house than live with "all the bad memories".

By Amanda Cresswell

ONE word has destroyed this Ipswich couple's life.

Convicted of calling an 11-year-old boy a term of racial abuse, they today spoke of their remorse – and say they would sooner move house than live with "all the bad memories".

Magistrates heard Jennifer Wightman and her husband Robert, also 56, lashed out at their neighbour after a heated row over a bottle of milk.


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Now the couple are selling their home of 23 years because they cannot come to terms with their crime.

Sentenced to a year's conditional discharge at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court, shamed Mrs Wightman told the Star: "I am so glad the case is all over. I am not racist. I don't look at the colour of people's skin.

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"I know what I said was wrong and I am not proud of it and I have to live with that for the rest of my life.

"It was said after a lot of provocation. You can only take so much. What was said to me hurt me deeply. I was in a cell and arrested and charged and had handcuffs on.

"It has all been a terrible strain. I want to move house to get away from all the bad

memories."

Warehouse worker Mrs Wightman feared prison because of the incident.

She is now receiving counselling after the row, which she claims began after she was accused of stealing a neighbour's milk.

The Poppy Close neighbours were once friends – with her husband helping out with the garden, Ipswich magistrates heard.

But the relationship deteriorated rapidly after an argument and ended up with vicious insults being hurled at each other.

The Wightmans admitted two charges of harassment – one of them racially aggravated – both stemming from incidents in August this year.

Prosecutor Mr Davies said the couple admitted the insults during police interview, but told a different story about the circumstances surrounding them.

He said: "However much they throw blame on the other parties, they played their full part and they used language which was not only intemperate, but also insulting."

Dino Barricello, mitigating, said his clients had always got on with neighbours before this row developed.

He said: "In the heat of the moment, they said comments that they deeply regret.

"The Wightmans are not racists, they have led a blameless life to this point."

In giving the couple a 12-month conditional discharge, chairman of the bench Martin Smith told them he accepted their remorse.

He said: "We all have a duty to control our tempers. It's not acceptable to make racially dismissive remarks. The law looks very seriously on it and rightly so."

The Wightmans were also ordered to pay £55 costs.

After the case, Mrs Wightman said: "The case had such an impact on our lives it is unbelievable.

"It played havoc with my life. I did think I was going to go to prison. It frightened me. When I went to bed at night I thought about it and when I got up in the morning."

She claimed the neighbour's made a hurtful comment about a family member that prompted the racial remark.

"It was six of one and half a dozen of the other," she said. "It was a one off incident that got out of control.

"The row got quite blazing. I have never had a criminal record before. I wanted to apologise but never got the chance."

The neighbours were unavailable for comment not at their home when The Star called.

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