Lecturer guilty of hate crime after telling German woman to ‘go home’
University lecturer, 72, who shouted ‘Go home!’ at German archaeologist neighbour, 50, as he walked past her suburban home on his way to Waitrose is banned from contacting her
- Dr John Smart told Birgitta Hoffman: ‘You’re that German why are you still here?’
- Reduced Dr Hoffman to a ‘crying fit’ and left her shaking before she called police
- Dr Smart made comments to Dr Hoffman outside Wilmslow home of 22 years
- He was banned from contacting her for a year and ordered to pay £2,229 fine
A retired university lecturer has been convicted of hate crimes after asking a German academic ‘why are you still here?’ and telling her to ‘go home’.
Dr John Smart, 72, reduced Dr Birgitta Hoffman, 49, to tears after making the racist comments on his way home from Waitrose.
Dr Hoffman has lived in the affluent area of Wilmslow, Cheshire for 22 years and stood as a Liberal Democrat candidate in local council elections.
She told a court she was left ‘shaking’ and was reduced to a ‘crying fit’ when Dr Smart attacked her for a second time asking her ‘Are you still here?’ as he walked by her £733,000 detached home.
He was found guilty of two charges of racially aggravated harassment by magistrates in Stockport and fined a total of £2,229, as well as being banned from contacting her for a year.
Dr John Smart, 72 (pictured leaving court in Stockport yesterday, left) reduced Dr Birgitta Hoffman, 49 (pictured outside same court yesterday, right) to tears after making racist comments towards her on his way home from Waitrose in Wilmslow, Cheshire
The hearing was told the two incidents happened on April 22 and July 4 last year after Dr Hoffman, originally from Landstuhl, south Germany, stood unsuccessfully in the local elections.
Describing the first verbal assault, she told the court: ‘I was in my front garden doing some planting and flowerbeds when I became aware there was a gentleman passing my hedge.
‘I did what I always did and said ‘good morning’ and usually I would expect people to say it back – but instead this gentleman stopped and said ‘you’re that German, why are you still here, go back’.
‘I was at this point gobsmacked. I think I replied something like ‘there’s no need to be rude’, this was my way of letting of steam.
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‘I said ‘If you’re British, there’s no need to be rude’ but he was walking away and making the statement.
‘There was no need for someone overstepping the mark in a situation where emotions shouldn’t be high.
‘The gentleman continued to walk down the road and then stopped briefly and said something like ‘you’re obnoxious, go back’.
‘At that point I was beginning to shake. I was getting very agitated and having shakes.
‘I made it back into the house and came down into a crying fit. ‘I called the police once I’d calmed myself down who came and took my statement.
‘After this happened I didn’t dare go out into my front yard unaccompanied, I just felt threatened.’
Dr Smart targeted Dr Hoffman as she tended to the front garden of her £733,000 detached home in Wilmslow, Cheshire (pictured) as he was walking back from his local Waitrose
She also claimed no one else has made such comments to her in her 22 years of living in Britain, adding: ‘Nobody in all the comments I’ve had in my lifetime have ever said that I should ‘go home’.
‘I’ve lived in Wilmslow for 22 years, very few people would confuse my home with a place other than Wilmslow.’
Dr Smart denied any wrongdoing and insisted he ‘wouldn’t say something like that’ because he ‘doesn’t have a problem with Germans’.
Dr Hoffman (pictured outside court yesterday) is originally from south Germany but has lived in Britain for 22 years
He told the hearing: ‘I knew of this lady, but I’ve never spoken to her.
‘I think I probably did know her name at the time but I’m not 100 per cent sure on that. I don’t remember in detail what I said to her. I accept words were exchanged but I don’t recall what she said to me.’
When asked if he told Dr Hoffman to ‘go home’ Smart added: ‘ The more I think of it, I’m positive I wouldn’t say this.
‘On 4 July, I was coming back from the shop and I was spoken to by a lady and all I can remember is she was screaming hysterically and I ignored her.
‘I did not say ‘are you still here?’. These aren’t my views. My wife reminded me that she had delivered the parish magazine and she probably told me she was a German lady – but I’m positive I wouldn’t say something like that.
‘I don’t have a problem with Germans and I think it’s undoubtedly true that she is exaggerating.
‘I would never have said anything that could make someone scared. I don’t know why she did come to court but he has but I think it’s pretty obvious that she made this up.
Recalling the second incident Dr Hoffman continued: ‘It was about 9.20am and was out sweeping my yard and putting things in the bin when the same gentleman came down the road.
‘This time he was, coming back from town and turned around and said: ‘are you still here?’.
‘I told him the police were wanting to talk to him but he just shrugged. I saw him go into a property and called the police.
‘I then went upstairs and collapsed on the bed, my husband found me having a crying fit.
‘I’ve done a lot of leaflet drops for the Liberal Democrat party. We had a number of stalls in the high street and as usually happens in a campaign, people will express negative attitudes.
‘I have had two people during the campaign who denied me my right to work in a political campaign because they knew I was German.
‘But that was not on the estate – that was in a different part of Wilmslow.’
Dr Smart is pictured bowing his head away from cameras as he leaves court with a one-year restraining order and £2,229 fine
She spoke of how angry the comments made her, saying: ‘There was no need for this. British society as a whole treasures good manners and it’s become a bit of a mantra that if you’re British you’re not rude.
‘I know that German ways can be viewed as very brash – but I’ve made it my mission to tone this down.’
She called the police and Dr Smart was arrested and charged.
Prosecuting, her lawyer Lynn Rodgers said: ‘She is not over-sensitive, she accepts during political campaigns people’s emotions are high.
‘When she was canvassing for the Liberal Democrats she did come across some people who were objecting against the German origin when working in politics.
‘She took it on the chin even though she was probably offended.
‘What she doesn’t expect is to be in her garden and being police to people passing by, to be then racially abused. It’s a curveball that’s come at her.
‘The parties don’t know each other, she did not know Dr Smart at all. She’s no reason to put herself coming to court to have to explain what happened to her.
‘Dr Smart says he only knew of her because of his wife and she certainly knew she was German.’
Sentencing Smart, magistrates told him: ‘Our evaluation is Dr Hoffman gave clear evidence whilst Dr Smart was not 100 per cent sure about what he said – we did not find Dr Smart to be a credible person.’
Since arriving in the UK Dr Hoffman has set up her own business Mancent, providing adult education and has volunteered with The British Legion.
In 2005 she set up Wilmslow Community Archaeology a voluntary archaeology and history group.
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