x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Definition of murder questioned

An Asian man who killed a white neighbour in a fight is jailed for eight years by a court in England.

An Asian man who killed a white neighbour in a fight has been jailed for eight years by a court in England. The trial of Habib Khan, 50, became a cause célèbre earlier this year after a jury was told that neighbour Keith Brown - a member of the British National Party - had made the Muslim family's life "hell" for five years, subjecting Khan, his wife and sons to "racial hostility". In July last year, Khan had gone outside his home in Normacot, Stoke-on-Trent, about 50km south of Manchester, with a knife when he saw Brown trying to strangle his son Azir, Stafford crown court was told. Khan maintained that he had only grabbed the knife to scare his neighbour but, in the ensuing struggle, Brown died from a single stab wound. Khan, described as a "mild and calm-mannered family man", was eventually cleared of murder but was found guilty of manslaughter, in addition to unlawfully wounding Brown's son, Ashley Barker. On Friday, Judge Simon Tonking sentenced Khan to 6 ½ years in prison for manslaughter and 18 months for wounding. The judge said that he accepted that Khan had acted "in the honest belief that he needed to protect his son". He added: "What became obvious as the evidence unfolded is that from time to time, despite denials to the contrary, both Mr Brown and his son Ashley Barker were involved in acts of racial aggression towards members of Mr Khan's family. "But it is beyond question that, by acting in the way that he did, Mr Khan killed Mr Brown unlawfully. Whatever their differences, the fact is that Mr Brown lost his life. That is a consequence for which Mr Khan must be punished with a significant custodial sentence." The court heard that Khan and Brown had been involved in a long-running dispute over land next to their homes. Khan had successfully applied to build a house on the land, despite Brown's opposition, and when construction work started, Brown "took steps to obstruct it", the jury was told. The dispute ended in physical violence last July. Brown had grabbed Azir and Khan and his other son, Kazir Saddique, ended up in a brawl with Brown and Barker. Kazir has been sentenced to a year in prison after admitting unlawful wounding but Azir, 24, was found not guilty of wounding. Julia Brown, the victim's wife, said after the sentences were handed down that she did not feel justice had been done. "At the end of the day, it should have been murder not manslaughter," she said. "If he did not have the intention to go out and murder, he should not have taken the knife out. Everybody feels sorry for that family, but what have we been through?" Outside court, Martin Coleman, a local British National Party councillor, said that the extreme right-wing party would start a campaign to expose the "insanity and madness" of the manslaughter verdict and the sentence imposed on Khan. He attacked the "liberal politics" of the court and criticised Staffordshire Police for "going softly on ethnic minorities while being hard on the indigenous population of this island". Mr Coleman added: "It bears no relationship with any form of justice that I understand, can understand, recognise or accept. "We've got a man who has been murdered in the street. Someone has ran out into the public street with a knife and murdered a man and the judge says there's literally no case to answer. I think what we've witnessed here is an outrageous betrayal of justice." In a statement, the Independent Police Complaints Commission said local police had repeated contact with both families during the dispute and investigated complaints made by both sides. A spokesman said they were unable to substantiate any of the claims made about the way the families were treated by the force but added that one officer had received "advice" about his behaviour. The local police force said the investigation into Brown's death had been handled in a "thorough and impartial" way. Simon Drew, Khan's lawyer, also criticised the police because, although they attended Khan's home on several occasions because of Brown's harassment of the family, their investigations usually came to nothing because of what he described as "generous failures by the system". dsapsted@thenational.ae