Councillor fined £750 for calling Welshman 'boyo'

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Indy Politics

Danny Meikle, a Labour councillor in south Lanarkshire, was fined £750 after a row with a Welshman, Tecwyn Thomas, about English sewage being dumped on Scottish land.

Mr Thomas, 57, who has lived in Mr Meikle's Douglas ward for the past three years, said the councillor swore at him during a heated discussion about the sewage and he had been subjected to a barrage of foul-mouthed racist abuse.

At Lanark sheriff court, Mr Thomas said he and a friend had gone to Mr Meikle's surgery to ask about a letter he had not replied to. "His response was a torrent of foul language," Mr Thomas said. He told Sheriff Petra Collins that Mr Meikle had said he "wouldn't answer any of your fucking letters, boyo" and had placed particular emphasis on the last word. He said the councillor also told him: "You don't fucking frighten me boyo."

But Mr Meikle told the court he often used the word boyo and regularly swore in normal conversation. Although he knew Mr Thomas was Welsh, he said he had not intended the use of the word to be racist.

Mr Meikle said he had sworn at Mr Thomas and his friend because they would not leave the surgery. "I asked them to fuck off. I asked them to leave on two occasions but they wouldn't. I then asked, 'What word did you not understand? Was it the fuck off or the boyo?'," Mr Meikle said.

His lawyer, Stephen McBride, said "Bhoyo" in reference to Celtic's Welsh striker John Hartson and the club's nickname of the "Bhoys", was regularly used in newspapers and that it was not racist.

Mr Thomas agreed the word itself was not racist but said the way it was used had been.

Sheriff Collins said she was satisfied the comments made by Mr Meikle were intended to antagonise Mr Thomas. But the conviction has caused concern among legal experts who believe the laws on racial aggravation might have to be reviewed in light of the case.

Hugh McLachlan, a reader in law and social sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University, said people should now be careful of using terms such as Jock, Mick, Taffy or Scouser in reference to race or regional differences. "If 'boyo' is racist people should be careful of using the word 'Jock'."

"If a person wants to offend a Scot they could call him a Jock but at the same time they might use the word as a term of endearment or affection. It all depends on the tone and context of what was said rather than the words used. Once it gets to court and the words are coldly quoted in evidence there is nothing to indicate the tone so they can seem more offensive than they were intended to be."

After the case Mr Meikle, head of a building firm, called the charge "nonsense" but said he would now have to consider his place on the council of the councillors' code of ethics.