Abdullah Qureshi has been found guilty of the reinstated racially/religiously aggravated charges that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) initially dropped, before intervention by Campaign Against Antisemitism and other groups.
On 7th April, Mr Qureshi, 28, from Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty at Thames Magistrates’ Court to two counts of assault by beating and one count of grievous bodily harm with intent. The charges related to a series of assaults on 18th August 2021 in Stamford Hill in which five religious Jews in the North London neighbourhood were violently attacked.
In one incident at 18:41 on the day of the attacks last August, an Orthodox Jewish man was struck in the face with what appeared to be a bottle. In another at 19:10, a child was slapped on the back of the head, and in yet another at 20:30, a 64-year-old victim was struck and left unconscious on the ground, suffering facial injuries and a broken ankle. Two further incidents were also alleged.
The incidents received significant media attention at the time, and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, condemned “this appalling attack,” adding: “Let me be clear, racist abuse and hate crime, including antisemitism, have absolutely no place in our city.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism then revealed that the CPS had dropped the racially/religiously aggravated element of those charges as part of a plea deal with Mr Qureshi. After we, Shomrim, CST and other communal organisations made representations to the CPS, it agreed to reinstate the aggravated elements, but Mr Qureshi appeared in court to resist the reinstatement of the aggravated element.
In August, Stratford Magistrates’ Court agreed to reinstate the racially/religiously aggravated element to the charges against Mr Qureshi, and, at a further hearing at Thames Magistrates’ Court, he pleaded not guilty.
At today’s trial at Stratford Magistrates’ Court, Mr Qureshi did not have legal representation, having previously dismissed his lawyer prior to pleading not guilty over the summer. The court heard how the victim of the GBH assault broke four bones in his foot in the incident, requiring three screws and a wire to be inserted and leaving him in severe pain physically and mentally. He had dizzy spells lasting for two weeks and said that he was told that he may have PTSD. He told the court of his trauma, revealing that “I’m not the same confident person I used to be,” that he is now “scared and every noise makes me jump” and that he feels that he is “still traumatised.”
A second victim described the incident as leaving him “shocked and traumatised”. A teacher, he recounted that he could not teach for several days after the incident and that he is also worried that the children in his school could be attacked in the neighbourhood as well. “I came here today,” he explained, “so that this doesn’t happen again to other people of my community.”
Both victims testified behind a screen so that Mr Qureshi could not see them.
A third victim, who was fourteen at the time of the attack and is now sixteen, chose to submit a statement to the court, which was read out, rather than attending in person because, he explained, “If I go to court and he [Mr Qureshi] sees me again afterwards he may do something to me again.”
District Crown Prosecutor Varinder Hayre accused Mr Qureshi of being motivated by hostility towards Jewish people, exhibiting screenshots on his phone that were uncovered by police, one of which, described as a “Dua [Islamic prayer] for protection from your enemy,” said: “Oh Allah, we ask you to restrain them by their necks and we seek refuge from you in their evil.” Mr Qureshi denied that this was a reference to Jewish people but rather to evil spirits, and that in any event it was not his message but rather had been sent to him.
The court also saw previously unseen footage taken from a kosher grocery store a few hours before the attacks, where Mr Qureshi appeared to engage in a dispute with the workers in the shop who accused him of trying to steal water and attempted to retrieve it from him. The prosecutor argued that Mr Qureshi did not attack those workers because they were not Jewish. Mr Qureshi claimed that the incident made him angry and he lashed out at random people on the street afterwards, all of whom coincidentally happened to be Jewish. He insisted that he had not meant to cause harm.
The prosecutor also argued that Mr Qureshi had travelled from Dewsbury to London in order to commit attacks in a Jewish neighbourhood, but Mr Qureshi claimed that he was merely visiting family in the capital for a week and spent two nights in Stamford Hill for sightseeing and shopping.
The court heard that Mr Qureshi had been calm and relaxed at the local hostel where he stayed for two nights after the incident, with the prosecution arguing that he did not attack anyone there because they were not Jewish.
Despite pleading guilty to the assaults previously, Mr Qureshi also now denied hitting the minor, but the presiding magistrate, John Law, dismissed that assertion. Mr Qureshi also tried to downplay the severity of the other assaults, for example saying that the victim who severely injured his foot had simply fallen over himself during the encounter rather than Mr Qureshi having directly caused the harm.
Throughout the hearing, Mr Qureshi appeared bored and drew spirals on the papers before him. He insisted that “I’ve got nothing against Jewish people” even as the prosecutor claimed that “You think Jewish people are evil,” “You were seeking revenge on Jewish people,” and “You were motivated by hostility toward Jewish people.”
Mr Qureshi was found guilty of the racially/religiously aggravated element on all three counts. The judge rejected his denial that he hit the minor and his claim that he barely touched the GBH victim, observing that the footage indicated that it was “a very hard punch.” He also rejected Mr Qureshi’s claim that he was walking around “simply for the purpose of buying food,” noting that one can see from the CCTV footage that Mr Qureshi was “clearly deviating from his path to attack the victims.” In sum, the judge declared: “I find the evidence he gave today unconvincing.”
Mr Qureshi was released on the same bail conditions as prior to the hearing, namely that he not enter N16 and that he reside at his Yorkshire address. A pre-sentence report is now to be prepared, and sentencing is due to be held at Snaresbrook Crown Court in December.
We would like to thank the Metropolitan Police Service’s DCI Yasmin Lalaniand, who oversaw the case, and District Crown Prosecutor Varinder Hayre of the CPS for bringing about the verdict today in court.
DCI Yasmin Lalani said: “I have made my position clear: I will not tolerate hate crime of any form anywhere in London. The Metropolitan Police Service has a zero tolerance policy for hate crime. We want to build safe and strong communities where people say no to hate crime.
“Do not come to Stamford Hill to commit any crime against our community. We will hold you to account. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Varinder Hayre who has worked relentlessly on this with us every step of the way to achieve this excellent outcome for our victims and our community.”
Ms Hayre said: “The assaults Abdullah Qureshi carried out were entirely unprovoked and based solely on his religious hatred. Mr Lipschitz, continues to suffer pain and dizziness several months after the attack, and the fourteen-year-old boy was traumatised by the incident and remains fearful when he is in the street.
“We had a strong case and I’m pleased the court agreed. The random nature of these attacks also caused fear more widely across this close-knit community, given it was clear that the attacks were religiously motivated.
“This type of hate crime, against any community, will be robustly prosecuted. The charges chosen by the CPS allow the court to increase the sentence to reflect the religious hatred that motivated these attacks.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “We are very satisfied that Abdullah Qureshi has been found guilty of the racially aggravated elements of his assaults. This verdict begins to redress the serious harm caused to his victims and we expect the court to impose a sentence appropriate to the severity of his awful crimes.
“Today’s verdict also vindicates efforts made by Campaign Against Antisemitism, Shomrim, CST and others to pressure the Crown Prosecution Service into reinstating the aggravated charges after they were initially dropped. The CPS claimed that it did not have sufficient evidence to make out the antisemitic element of the crimes, but we disagreed and the court has now in effect found that we were right to do so. We are grateful to the CPS for making the case forcefully in court today and bringing about this outcome. The CPS must now recognise that victims of antisemitic crimes cannot be made to accept deficient legal outcomes, and perpetrators are on notice that we will not stop until Jewish victims have justice.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis of Home Office statistics shows that an average of over five hate crimes are directed at Jews every single day in England and Wales, with Jews more than five times likelier to be targets of hate crimes than any other faith group.