A judge has described Abdullah Qureshi’s crimes as “terrible events for the entire Jewish community” before handing down his sentence in relation to racially aggravated assaults that Mr Qureshi committed against religious Jews two years ago.
On 7th April 2022, Mr Qureshi, 30, 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, 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 Crown Prosecution Service (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 last year, 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. In November 2022, Mr Qureshi was found guilty of the reinstated racially/religiously aggravated charges that the CPS initially dropped, before intervention by Campaign Against Antisemitism and other groups.
In December, Mr Qureshi was expected to be sentenced, but this was postponed following concerns surrounding his mental health. The court heard that Mr Qureshi suffered from anxiety and depression and that he had been hearing “internal voices” which ordered him to carry out the attacks. In February of this year, His Honour Judge Noel Lucas QC ordered an interim hospital order under Section 38 of the Mental Health Act 1983. Such an order is given when a person has been convicted but a court has been advised by doctors that the person has a mental health issue that requires hospital treatment before sentencing should occur.
On 29th June, Mr Qureshi appeared at Wood Green Crown Court, where the court heard the first of two medical reports on his condition, with a view to hearing the second in August.
Today, Mr Qureshi appeared at the same court via video link. He was asked if he wanted representation and declined, as he has done on previous occasions.
Also appearing by video from elsewhere was Dr Purvesh Madhani, who reported that he and a second doctor had considered sentencing options under the law and concluded that a prison sentence would not be appropriate in view of Mr Qureshi’s mental illness. Instead, they recommended an order under section 37 of the Mental Health Act order, along with a section 41 restriction. Dr Madhani said that “I have come to the conclusion he has symptoms…[namely] delusions and hallucinations that make me feel that a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia [is appropriate].”
Mr Qureshi argued against the s.41 restriction on the basis that he had not reoffended since the original incidents (albeit that much of that time has been spent in hospital). Dr Madhani accepted this but also noted that on one occasion Mr Qureshi had to “receive treatment without your consent”. The doctor also observed that Mr Qureshi does not understand the link between his mental health issues and the crimes that he committed.
Nicki Roberson, appearing via video link for the CPS, revealed that, at the time of Mr Qureshi’s arrest, his father expressed concerns about his mental health. She also read out victim statements. One victim not only suffered trauma himself from the assaults at the hands of Mr Qureshi, but his four eldest children also had to attend therapy for a year. Another victim – a fourteen-year-old who cannot be identified – said in his victim statement that “I felt scared…I said nothing as I was shocked” and that “this must not happen to anyone.” Yet another victim related in his statement that he had been punched by Mr Qureshi in his right ear “with tremendous power” and his ear was “burning for months”, leaving him in “excruciating” pain. He is still “jumpy at the slightest noise” and his GP has diagnosed him with PTSD and referred him to a specialist. One of the victims suffered financial loss due to being unable to work for a period.
It also emerged that Mr Qureshi has two previous convictions, including one under the Public Order Act in relation to violence outside a nightclub in Swansea City Centre. Once locked in a prison cell, he had also grabbed the throat of a police officer.
Ms Roberson described Mr Qureshi’s attacks in Stamford Hill as having involved a “significant degree of planning” and argued that the crimes possessed a “high level of religious aggravation”. She sought a restraining order for an indefinite period for the victims, barring Mr Qureshi from contacting them by any means, prohibiting him from coming within 100 metres of them, and also banning him from the London Borough of Hackney.
Mr Qureshi denied travelling from his home in Yorkshire just to commit the offences, insisting that “there was no planning.” He also expressed contrition several times, saying. “I am deeply sorry for any harm that I have caused” and “My actions were totally unacceptable.” However, he also claimed that “I was drunk and I was angry.”
Judge Kalyani Kaul KC observed that there has been widespread coverage of the attacks in the Jewish media, and that this must have caused “a deep sense of shock and insecurity” for the Jewish community. She said that “these sorts of attacks make waves” that are ultimately greater than the attacks themselves, describing the crimes as “terrible events for the entire Jewish community”. The Jewish community, she said, “should not be subject to discrimination or hurt,” adding that attacks such as these “encourage divisiveness…[and] mistrust…from Jewish people to wider society”. She declared that these attacks affect not only the Jewish community “but all of us”.
She noted of one of the victims that “his life has been changed forever, both in terms of his physical health and how he conducts his life” and, with regard to another victim, that it was “only by the good grace of G-d” that he was not injured further. The judge was also not persuaded by Mr Qureshi’s contrition, concluding that “I’m not convinced you fully take responsibility,” and rejected his drunkenness defence: “[it was not] simply a question of being drunk, hitting out and not really knowing what you’ve done.”
Judge Kaul declared that she would have liked to issue a prison sentence but was unable to under law. “If it had been a sentence I could pass,” she said, it would have been in the region of five years’ custody, but “I’m not passing that sentence because I can’t.” Instead, she ruled that “I am satisfied you are suffering from a mental disorder” specifically “paranoid schizophrenia”, and issued orders under section 37 with a section 41 restriction, because “there is a great risk you will commit further offences if you are not detained.” She also granted the restraining order for a period of ten years.
Under this hospital order, Mr Qureshi will be sent to hospital and can only be discharged with the consent of the Justice Secretary.
We are grateful to Nicki Roberson and District Crown Prosecutor Varinder Hayre for helping to bring about today’s outcome.
Varinder Hayre, District Crown Prosecutor and London North’s Hate Crime Lead, said: “Qureshi, who travelled from West Yorkshire, carried out a series of antisemitic attacks on the Jewish community. The only thing which connected his victims was their Jewish faith. Hatred of any kind has no place in society. This sentence should serve as a strong deterrent to those thinking of committing similar crimes.
“I would like to thank the three victims for coming forward and supporting the prosecution. I am very pleased that we have achieved justice for the victims who were badly affected by this unprovoked, antisemitic, religiously aggravated hate crime. Indeed, no one in our society should be targeted because of who they are or what they do. Hate crimes – including antisemitism – have a corrosive effect on society. We will always prosecute where there is sufficient evidence to do so.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “We are very satisfied that Abdullah Qureshi has finally been sentenced for crimes committed almost two years ago. Justice requires perseverance, and we worked to help ensure that Mr Qureshi was identified and caught, the correct charges were brought against him, he was prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and he was sentenced appropriately. This sentence helps to redress the serious harm caused to his victims by these awful crimes.
“Today’s sentence 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 found that we were right to do so. We are grateful to the CPS for making the case forcefully since then and bringing about this outcome.
“Today a judge has robustly reiterated the impact of these abominable crimes both on the victims and on the Jewish community more widely. The CPS must 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.