John Galliano found guilty of racial abuse but escapes jail and fines


John Lichfield
Friday 09 September 2011 00:00 BST
Galliano's suspended fine of €6,000 was hailed by his lawyer as a 'good decision'
Galliano's suspended fine of €6,000 was hailed by his lawyer as a 'good decision'

The British fashion designer John Galliano was convicted by a French court of hurling racial abuse in a Paris bar yesterday, but he received a relatively lenient sentence.

Galliano, 50, who did not appear in court, was given suspended fines totalling €6,000 (£5,240) for making "public anti-Semitic and racist remarks" in February this year and in October 2010. He was ordered to pay a symbolic €1 in damages to his victims and pay the legal costs of five anti-racist organisations who were represented at his trial in June.

His lawyer, Aurélien Hamelle, said: "This is a good decision. It amounts to no penalty." He said Galliano was now "serene, relieved and pleased that this is all behind him. He hopes to face the future with happiness and forgiveness".

In a written summary of its verdict and sentence, the court said it had taken into account Galliano's apologies at the June hearing. It had also taken into account the fact that his racist remarks – however unpleasant – had been intended for just a handful of people. The fact that they had been given "extreme publicity" all around the world was "not the fault of the accused".

In emotional statements to the court in June, the designer blamed his behaviour on overwork, the pressures of the fashion industry and a triple addiction to alcohol, Valium and sleeping pills. He said that his racist remarks were completely out of character.

Other lawyers suggested that the court may have decided that Galliano, who was fired as chief designer of Christian Dior when the allegations first surfaced in March, had already been punished enough. He will not be expected to pay the €6,000 in fines unless he commits a similar offence. The costs of the five French anti-racist groups are, however, likely to run to tens of thousands of euros.

Christian Dior has still not replaced Galliano and received miserable reviews for its haute couture collection in July. Since the "John Galliano" label also belongs to Dior, it remains unclear what future the Gibraltar-born designer may have in the fashion industry.

At his court hearing, Galliano said he could "hardly remember" his racist abuse of two customers at the trendy Perle bar in the Marais district of Paris.

He said he had since sought medical help. Racist remarks were completely against his character and beliefs, he told the court. "All my life I have fought against prejudice, intolerance and discrimination," he said.

Géraldine Bloch said the designer had used the word "Jewish" at least 30 times, including accusing her of having a "dirty Jewish face". Her friend, Philippe Virgitti, said that Galliano had called him a "fucking Asian bastard". Ms Bloch is not Jewish and Mr Virgitti is not Asian.

Galliano was also accused of calling another woman a "fucking ugly Jewish bitch" in the same bar the previous October.

A videotape appeared to show a third incident in the Perle bar in December. On the tape, Galliano, apparently drunk, says: "... I love Hitler, and people like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers, would be... gassed and... dead." The tape was not the subject of a separate charge but was shown as circumstantial evidence.

"On this video, I see someone who needs help," Galliano told the court. "This man is not John Galliano. It's the shell of John Galliano, someone who has been pushed to the limit."

The fashion designer said he had been under "huge pressure" since the death of his father in 2005 and the death of a "very dear friend" in 2007.

"I would like to apologise for all the upset this business has caused," he said.

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