The case has prompted outrage among black community leaders who said legislation designed to protect minority ethnic communities was being distorted by the police and used against "the people it was designed to protect". Andrew Wilson, 37, was convicted at Ipswich magistrates' court and fined pounds 50. The court heard that Mr Wilson was approached by two officers in the street as he sat on a television set which he had been moving for a friend.
When they began checking, he shouted: "You white boys, you arrest black people for anything. You're white trash, you're only doing this because I'm a nigger. Leave me alone, you f***ing white trash, leave my black ass alone." He is the first person from a minority ethnic group to be prosecuted for abusing a police officer under the race charge, which was introduced by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, as part of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
Black lawyers and community groups claimed the case was part of a police backlash against the findings of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. Police union representatives say street crime has risen since the Lawrence report because officers have been afraid of stopping and searching black people in case they are branded racists. Peter Herbert, chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, described the prosecution as "a complete joke". He said: "It was never the intention that the legislation was designed to protect white police officers against racism from the black community."
Lee Jasper, director of the 1990 Trust and a member of Mr Straw's Race Relations Forum, said: "This case is contrary to the spirit and objectives of the Home Secretary's legislation. It points to institutional racism and discredits the whole criminal justice system." He said there were other laws available for dealing with those who were abusive towards police officers.
Mr Jasper drew a parallel with the introduction of race relations legislation in 1965. Five of the first six people to be prosecuted for "incitement to racial hatred" in Britain were black. They included Roy Sawh, a Guyanese- born political activist who was arrested at Speaker's Corner in London in 1967 and fined pounds 120, and Michael Abdul Malik, also known as Michael X, who was prosecuted in Reading the same year.
Mr Wilson told The Voice black newspaper that he would be appealing against the conviction. Chris Yule, the Suffolk chief crown prosecutor, said the new legislation applied to all perpetrators of racist incidents "regardless of ethnic origin".