Friday, February 4, 2011

Jailed for playing the race card, sales rep, 45, who falsely claimed he had been racially abused by a traffic warden and a doctor

A sales rep who falsely claimed a traffic warden had racially abused and attacked him in a bid to avoid a parking ticket was today jailed for 12 months.

Father-of-three Ben Hlal - originally from Tunisia - had parked on double yellow lines outside an Asda supermarket when he was caught by civil enforcement officer Andrew Lynch.

Mr Lynch warned the 45-year-old he would give him a ticket if he did not move on and gave him time to move his car.

But Hlal moved to another section of road, also with double yellow lines, and phoned the police from his mobile claiming Mr Lynch had racially abused him and grabbed him around the neck.

Mr Lynch was later arrested, interrogated by officers for three hours and suspended from his job at Fareham Borough Council.

He was only allowed back to work five weeks later when police decided there was no case to answer, Portsmouth Crown Court heard.

Hlal also made a false allegation of racial abuse against a doctor who challenged him for parking in a disabled bay at a Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Winchester, without displaying a badge.

Dr Neil Buchanan was also arrested and later released without charge - but the suspicion continued to be flagged up on his regular criminal record checks that were done routinely as part of his job.

Judge Hetherington: 'You deliberately played the race card, knowing it would cause maximum embarrassment and be treated seriously by the authorities'

In a statement to police, Hlal, from Fareham, Hants, said he was grateful his elderly mother was not in the car on September 5, 2008, because the shock of seeing the doctor 'shouting and jumping' would have killed her.

He added: 'I was shocked and frightened at the time and on reflection, I'm even more shocked that someone can act like that.'

During the trial, traffic warden Mr Lynch said he feared losing his job following the incident on November 14, 2009.

He said: 'I went up to the vehicle and said to the driver that he needed to move. At this point he said to me that he was on the phone to the police and that I had assaulted him.

'He said that I had grabbed him around the face and had hit him against his headrest. I said: "No I haven't."

'I stepped back and went to issue a penalty charge notice.'

'I was suspended from patrolling, from doing my job. I thought I was going to lose my job.'

Car park row: Hlal accused Dr Neil Buchanan of racially abusing him at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Winchester

Judge Roger Hetherington today said Hlal, who moved to the UK from Tunisia about 25 years ago, had 'used the race card' to try and avoid paying the parking ticket at Asda.

The court heard that Hlal's ex-wife Diane Bateman, with whom he still remained in contact, had given a police statement in support of his claim against the parking warden in Fareham.

Judge Hetherington told Hlal: 'You made a concerted and determined decision to pursue these deliberately false complaints against two innocent men.

'Your motivation was partly to get yourself out of a situtation where you were in the wrong and may have had to pay a fine and partly anger that someone might have the temerity to challenge you.

'You deliberately played the race card, knowing it would cause maximum embarrassment and be treated seriously by the authorities.

'You were the instigator in both these matters.

'You, Bateman, probably acted out of a sense of loyalty to your husband.' Kate Freemantle, defending Hlal, said her client was the main breadwinner in the family and if he was jailed his three children and elderly mother would struggle to cope.

Russell Pyne, defending Bateman, said she was probably pressured into giving a statement in support of her husband and would also be deprived of seeing her children.

Hlal was sentenced to 12 months' jail for two counts of perverting justice, to run concurrently.
Bateman, from Gosport, Hants, was jailed for six months, suspended for 12 months, for one count of perverting justice.

She was also ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work and pay costs of £500.

Both had denied the allegations and were found guilty at trial.

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