"A schoolboy is facing the threat of a year in a young offenders' institute after he became the first to be convicted of racially harrassing a fellow pupil.
The 15-year-old boy, who cannot be named, caused a 14-year-old classmate to attempt suicide by repeatedly calling her "wog, coon, nigger, gorilla and golliwog" for six months. Lincoln magistrates, who convicted the boy of racially aggravated harassment, heard that the girl took a mixture of pills and wrote a goodbye note to her family. The behaviour of the boy, who had no previous convictions, was condemned as "merciless" last night by anti-racism campaigners.
However, his conviction - the first for the crime over an incident in a school - prompted questions over whether such bullying should be dealt with through criminal law. David Green, the director of Civitas, the right-leaning think-tank, said that while the boy's behaviour should be condemned, "the law does not belong in the schoolyard in these cases".
"We are not talking stabbings or serious assault here," Dr Green said. "This should be a matter for the school and the children's parents." Josie Appleton, the director of the anti-regulation think-tank the Manifesto Club, which will publish a paper on schools' obligations over racist incidents this autumn, added: "This should be dealt with in the school.
"Criminalising it undermines the authority of schools. Teachers have to be able to set a moral example."
The boy, who denied the charge, was convicted after a six-hour trial. He will be sentenced on August 13. He faces a maximum two-year detention and training order, including 12 months in a young offenders' institute.
However, Sunil Khanna, the boy's solicitor, said: "I'm not sure a criminal prosecution was the right way forward. "I know this goes beyond normal bullying, but mistakes that might have been down to youthful ignorance will now stick with him years."
The boy's grandfather said: “It's difficult to know what to believe, they can make more out of court cases sometimes than there is. He has always protested his innocence and we are not a racist family.”
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