A court has ruled that an attack on a Singaporean law student by a teenager over coronavirus was “unprovoked and racially motivated”.
24-year-old Jonathan Mok was left with a fractured nose and broken cheekbone after he was assaulted by a 15-year-old boy and his group of friends on Oxford Street on 24 February.
The teenager, who cannot be named due to his age, was found guilty of racially aggravated grievous bodily harm (GBH) at Highbury Corner Youth Court on Monday.
The boy previously admitted wounding or inflicting GBH, but denied the attack was racially motivated. In December, he told his trial that he had not mentioned coronavirus and was not a racist.
But several people who had witnessed the incident told the court they heard the word “disease” or “coronavirus” uttered from a few metres away.
Chairwoman of the bench Lesley Ward said the evidence showed the teenager’s version of events was “not plausible” and could not be believed.
“Given the number of witnesses and your proximity tot he incident, we feel it’s not plausible that you missed the racist term being used and it’s therefore difficult to believe your version of events,” she told him.
She added that the attack had been “unprovoked and racially motivated”.
Mr Mok, who had been studying in London for two years at the time of the attack, told the trial that the attack took place after a friend of the teenager made a remark about coronavirus towards him.
The Singaporean student turned around, and the defendant’s friend said “don’t you look at me” before punching him in the face without warning, the court heard. This was followed by the 15-year-old boy joining in the attack, punching and kicking Mr Mok and making a “racist” comment.
The teenage defendant told Mr Mok: “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country.”
When asked what he thought the comment meant, Mr Mok told the trial: “My interpretation was he believed that I was the one who brought the coronavirus to this country, or people who look like me.
“I was angry… it was quite shocking because I never expected to face this sort of incident, I have never heard this kind of comment the whole time while studying in London.”
The teenager previously denied kicking Mr Mok or hearing any mention of coronavirus among his group of friends.
He told the court that “no one said anything towards Mr Mok about his ethnicity”, and added that he believed coronavirus was “fake” at the time of the incident.
He was released on unconditional bail and will be sentenced at Highbury Corner Youth Court on 27 January.
Reporting by PA