I said he looked like a monkey but it wasn't racist, Pc tells court
Tuesday 27 November 2012
A police officer admitted saying a black man looked like a monkey but said it had nothing to do with his race and that he was pointing him out during a discussion about evolution, a court heard today.
Pc Kevin Hughes, 36, is also accused of saying black people were "more closely related to Neanderthals" but said he did not know what the word meant.
The officer, who allegedly said black people had not evolved and "lived in mud huts in Africa", told the court it was "upsetting" that anyone would think he was racist.
Hughes, of Brentwood, Essex, said he made the comments because he saw a black man with "elongated arms" and a "gait" like a monkey while out on patrol with three colleagues in Newham, east London, Westminster Magistrates' Court heard.
The man was black but Hughes said he only had a "fleeting glance" at him. But he admitted saying he used the word "chimpanzee" to describe him.
He told the court of the incident on February 22: "I said to Costas (Pc Costas Dakoutros) - 'You see that man there? He's walking like a monkey'.
"Pc Dakoutros said 'Are you saying that because he's black?'.
"I just said 'it has got nothing to do with him being black'.
"I noticed him because he had elongated arms, his gait. That is why I picked him out because of the way he was walking. It was a fleeting look."
Hughes said they were having an argument about evolution and he merely pointed out the man in the street to illustrate his point.
He said part of the motivation for saying it was remembering from childhood the archetypal drawing in school textbooks depicting apes evolving into men.
Hughes acknowledged the use of the word "chimpanzee" but said he did not know what Neanderthals meant.
"It is embarrassing to say but I don't even know what that word means. It is not a word I would use," he said.
Asked if he was restricting his comparison to "black people", Hughes said: "It is upsetting for someone to say that about you. It is just ridiculous."
He said he had "always chosen to work in boroughs that are diverse" and that as a personal trainer he worked with people who were "black, white, Chinese".
Hughes's colleague, Pc David Hair, 42, is also standing trial for allegedly telling a female black colleague he thought she was going to "rant" about overtime and not do any because she was "going home to cook bananas".
Hair, of Epping, Essex, is alleged to have made the racist comments to his colleague Pc Julia Dacres on March 13.
While on patrol, Hair allegedly teased Pc Dacres about overtime as she rarely did any as she would find it difficult to travel home after a shift.
Hair then allegedly said: "I didn't know if you were going to go into a little rant and say you were going to go home and cook bananas."
After the incident, Hughes allegedly sent a text to Hair, saying "challenge", an informal way of airing a grievance within their police unit.
After acknowledging the message he sent to Hair, Hughes said in his police interview that "it instantly triggered (the reaction) because you are making a racist connotation", according to prosecutor Kate Wilkinson.
She then asked Hughes: "And monkeys and black people doesn't?"
Hughes replied: "It does."
Ms Wilkinson went on: "Had you used the phrase, you fully accept that those words are abusive or insulting?"
Hughes said: "Yes."
The prosecutor said: "'Look at them, they look like monkeys', that is abusive or insulting, notwithstanding the use of the word 'f******?"'
Hughes replied: "Yes."
Ms Wilkinson went on: "Because of the obvious racial connotations between black people and monkeys?"
"Correct," replied Hughes.
Hughes said he did not think Hair knew about the racial connotations in the "banana" comment.
Hair and Hughes met at police training school and both deny one count each of using threatening words or behaviour to cause alarm and distress and one count each of racially aggravated harassment.
The trial continues.
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