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Leon Norris trashes Hungry Horse pub in racist attack on barman in Folkestone

By Sean Axtell

A thug trashed a pub and hurled racist abuse at a barman when it took too long to be served, a court heard.

Leon Norris, 29, was on a date with a girl at Folkestone’s Black Bull Pub - a Hungry Horse venue - when he caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.

Barman Brandon Marson, who had worked at the pub in Blackbull Road for a month, quit shortly after the verbal attack, Folkestone Magistrates’ Court heard.

Leon Norris, 29, from Folkestone
Leon Norris, 29, from Folkestone

CCTV evidence showed Norris, of Sugar Loaf Walk in Folkestone, ripping a soft drinks dispenser off the bar, emptying beer taps, and launching a slushy machine on the floor.

The father-of-two then launched his phone at staff and shouted a racist threat before leaving the venue, the court heard.

Norris, a carpet cleaner, soon returned to retrieve the device - but when staff refused he spat at them.

Norris pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal damage but denied racial aggravation, however, magistrates found Mr Marson a credible witness and upheld the charge.

Giving evidence from behind a screen, Mr Marson explained: “I was working behind the bar on my own – I dealt with the situation the best I could.

“Leon Norris came in with a girl, he seemed like he really wanted a drink, but I was serving other customers at the time.

“He proceeded to be very agitated (and) I just said you are going to have to wait your turn.

The Black Bull pub, a Hungry Horse venue in Folkestone
The Black Bull pub, a Hungry Horse venue in Folkestone

“I do remember him making racist remarks, I remember other people around him telling him not to speak to me in that way.”

When prosecuting barrister Alban Brahimi asked what racist remark was made Mr Marson replied: “I think he called me a black b------."

“It made me feel really bad, but when I hear things of that nature I try to block that kind of stuff out.

“Since my childhood I have learned the skill to block (racist remarks) out.”

He explained Norris tried paying for drinks with a £5 note ripped into four pieces, then became more aggressive when the tender was refused.

“I didn’t want him to see me again so I remained away from him,” Mr Marson added.

Norris, who has 13 previous convictions including racial aggravation, could be seen shaking his head in denial as the evidence was heard.

Giving evidence, manager Rosie Hobbs said Norris became “quite scary” and a number of families were eating inside the venue.

Folkestone Magistrates' Court
Folkestone Magistrates' Court

She added: “When he left the pub the first time he said ‘I will come back for all of you'."

Norris handed himself in at Folkestone Police Station shortly after the incident, which happened on February 2 last year.

Probation officer Jane Bratton likened Norris’s outburst to “the work of an adolescent”.

She explained Norris suffered anger management and alcohol issues, which could be helped with rehabilitation.

Mitigating, defence lawyer Rocco Marinaccio argued it was impossible for magistrates' to be sure what language was used as elements of the victim statements were conflicting.

But magistrates served Norris 56 days in prison suspended for a year, a four month curfew from 7pm-7am and 30 days probation.

He was also ordered to pay £1,000 compensation for damage to the pub and £85 victim surcharge at £10 a week.

On sentencing Peter Goodwin, chairman of the bench, told Norris: “For the people who were working there this was a thoroughly unpleasant and obnoxious thing to go through.”

Speaking after sentencing, charity Show Racism the Red Card said the justice system could do more to educate those guilty of racist offences.

"This horrific story sadly shows us that we still have work to do in tackling racism in UK society," a spokesman said.

"No one should be subjected to this kind of abuse at their place of work and our sympathies lie with Mr Marson having to go through this experience.

"As the defendant has previous convictions for racial aggravation, clearly punishment alone has not worked in this case.

"Education is the key to tackling racism and we would always advocate for education to be part of any punishment handed out."

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