Told Lanark store worker he’d ‘prefer a white person’

Specsavers store in Lanark.
Specsavers store in Lanark.

The day after the Manchester terrorist bombing, a 57-year-old customer told a Lanark shop assistant of Asian parentage that he’d “rather be dealt with by a white person.”

He then told the distressed young employee of Specsavers in the High Street “Manchester done it for me; I have family down south.”

During the exchange Eric Greene of Braidwood Road, Braidwood, pulled down his shirtfront to show the Scots-born assistant Sarah Kerr a Jewish Star of David medallion around his neck,

Lanark Sheriff Court heard this on Thursday when Greene pleaded guilty to a charge of distressing Miss Kerr at Spesavers on May 24 by acting in a racially aggravated manner.

Depute Fiscal Ziad Hassan told the court that Greene had been approached by Miss Kerr as he entered the shop for an appointment at 2.30am, she intended to take pre-examination details.

However, Greene then made the request to see a white employee instead, citing the previous day’s attack by a muslim terrorist in Manchester; Miss Kerr told him that she was born in Scotland and was not religious. Her workmates had overheard the exchange and asked Greene to leave the shop, to which he responded: “I was leaving anyway.”

The police were contacted and arrived at the shop to find Miss Kerr visibly shocked and upset at the encounter.

When later questioned by police Greene told officers: “I said I was sorry but I have an issue with Manchester. That was the last straw with me. I tried to establish if she was a muslim, She said she was born here but that doesn’t stop us from being attacked.”

Sheriff Nikola Stewart expressed her “disgust” at what the court had been told.

She commented: “I am astonished at someone taking this ignorant, bigotted attiude.

“I do not think there is anyone in this courtroom today who has not been digusted by what they have just heard. It’s the kind of bigotry that led to the tragedy in Charlottesville last week.”

Greene’s solicitor, Catherine McNulty, explained that her client had suffered a medical problem which had an effect on how he expressed himself; his wife had described this by saying: “His filter has gone.”

She added that, as a Jew, Greene had suffered prejudice himself and that the Manchester bombing of the day before the incident had had a deep effect on him.

Sheriff Stewart rejected this as a justification for Greene’s comments to an innocent, young shop employee.

She stated: “Why would someone think that she had any culpability for the work of a madman?

“I take it that his signalling that he was of the Jewish faith was meant to excuse his behaviour.”

The sheriff went on to say that she noted that it had been claimed that Greene was suffering some medical condition which might have contributed to the offence. “I want to know more about this; I want to know how deep-seated his attitudes are.

“Prejudice is a cancer that eats away at our society.

She called for background reports and deferred sentence on him until September 14.