Racial violence and the night-time economy

Racial violence and the night-time economy


Written by: Jon Burnett

Research by the Institute of Race Relations reveals the continued prevalence of racial attacks, abuse and harassment occurring late at night and, frequently, fuelled by alcohol.

In 2010, The IRR’s report, Racial violence: the buried issue, showed how people working in certain professions – often those working alone at night – were disproportionately at risk of racially motivated violence.[1] Further investigations noted how taxi drivers in particular continued to face abuse and attack.[2] This update, focusing on violent racism occurring late at night draws attention to a pattern of violence which shows some of the true costs of the lucrative night-time economy.

The night-time economy

The development of the night-time economy in towns and cities across the UK has seen a proliferation of pubs, clubs and bars as well as a parallel increase in supplementary industries such as takeaways, fast food businesses and taxi firms. The sector is seen as key to local regeneration strategies and, in many areas, has been actively promoted by local authorities encouraging investment and relaxing licensing laws. It is worth approximately £66 billion per year.[3]

Our research, however, shows that the night-time economy carries with it a very real threat of racial violence. An analysis of media reported cases over the last six months emphasises that those working in industries related to this sector are vulnerable to racially motivated assault and abuse with incidents frequently happening in clubs, pubs and bars, as well as in public spaces throughout the UK.

Most of these attacks, according to our records, occur over weekends either in the evening or in the early hours of the morning. For the most part they are fuelled by alcohol. The majority of these cases involve the use of physical violence which is accompanied by racist abuse and, in some examples, the use of (or threat to use) weapons including broken glass, hammers, knives and blocks of concrete. Some of the victims are left needing hospital treatment and some have been permanently disfigured due to the severity of their injuries. In almost all of the incidents we have analysed the perpetrators and victims appear to be strangers to one another. Although the attacks we have documented took place throughout the UK there are a large number of reported incidents in Scotland and, in particular, Edinburgh.

Attacks in or around pubs, clubs and bars

Racist attacks on members of the public: Racist attacks on members of the public in, or just outside, licensed venues are common. The majority of these attacks are carried out when the victim is outnumbered and in most cases appear to be unprovoked.

  • 11 December 2010: A 45-year-old Algerian university student was racially abused by a group of drunken men and punched by one of them at a cashpoint outside a night club in Paisley, near Glasgow. The attacker called him a ‘black b*****d’. Police were present at the scene of the attack but, according to the victim, said that there was not enough evidence to do anything. (Paisley Daily Express, 16 December 2010)
  • 22 November 2010: A Chinese man, who had just left a nightclub in Edinburgh with friends, at about 1am, was beaten unconscious. The assailants approached the group and subjected them to racial abuse before attacking the victim. (Scotsman, 23 November 2010)
  • 11 November 2010: In the City Limits bar in Edinburgh, at about 9pm, a group of white males approached a group of friends who were drinking together and began racially abusing them. One of the attackers smashed a glass over a 37-year-old ‘mixed-race’ man’s head and then ran away. The victim was ‘covered in blood’ and was cut so deeply that he needed plastic surgery. (Edinburgh Evening News, 29 January 2011)
  • 31 October 2010: A 55-year-old black male was assaulted outside a nightclub in Bedford at about 2am. The unprovoked attack left him with a black eye, a broken ankle and a broken cheekbone which required surgery. CCTV footage showed the attackers as two white men. (Bedford Today, 1 December 2010)
  • 17 October 2010: Five people, including two teenage girls, pushed an Asian man to the ground and assaulted him in a pub car park in Chester in the early hours of the morning. The victim was attacked as he was admiring a friend’s car. (BBC News, 19 October 2010)

Staff working in licensed venues: Members of staff working in bars, hotels or clubs also face abuse. A couple who were forced to end the lease early of a bar they were running (detailed below), because of long-term harassment, indicates the extent to which the threat of violence can underpin the daily lives of employees in the night-time economy.

  • 17 December 2010: Justin Foster, 45, racially abused the Polish deputy manager of a hotel, in Ashford, Kent at a Christmas party. The incident happened just after midnight and culminated in Foster grabbing the deputy manager’s tie and shouting ‘this is my f*****g country. This is England’. (Kent Online, 11 January 2011)
  • September 2010: A Polish couple who opened a bar in Edinburgh were forced to end their lease after 18 months because of persistent racist abuse. The couple received up to twenty threatening phone calls a day, including calls from people pretending to be from Scottish Gas saying, ‘there was a special offer for Polish people where they had two gas chambers for the price of one’. At one point a man shouting abuse smashed the bar with a hammer. (Scotsman, 6 December 2010)
  • 21 August 2010: Steven Hill, 21, racially abused a Polish doorman at a nightclub in Lincoln and punched him in the face when he was refused re-entry. (Lincolnshire Echo, 7 October 2010)
  • 20 August 2010: A drunken man who refused to leave a hotel in the Shetland Isles until he was asked to do so by the police subjected an Indian chef to racist abuse, calling him a ‘P**i c**t’. (Shetland Times, 23 August 2010)
Parallel industries servicing the night-time economy

As well as workers in licensed premises, members of staff in parallel industries, servicing the night-time economy, face a persistent threat of racial abuse. Members of staff in takeaways and restaurants appear especially vulnerable but our records also indicate attacks on people working in stores selling alcohol. When physical violence occurs, it is frequently preceded by racist abuse and in certain cases accompanied by criminal damage. In some examples individuals employed in other jobs which put them in contact with individuals who are, or have been, drinking also face the threat of attack.

Workers in takeaways and restaurants: Attacks on workers in takeaways, fast-food outlets and restaurants appear consistently in our records. In numerous cases, particularly when violent attacks are preceded by ongoing threatening behaviour, the perpetrators are groups of young people or teenagers. Our research also shows many incidents which seem to come near the end of drunken nights out. Numerous attacks are accompanied or followed by criminal damage such as smashing glass in windows or doors. In one case a customer who attempted to intervene when a takeaway worker was being insulted was beaten so savagely that, among other injuries, his ankle was shattered.

  • 18 January 2011: Zayna Moon, 22, and Alexandra Richards, 19, subjected the owner of a kebab shop to a tirade of racial abuse during a drunken night out in Hastings, east Sussex. One of the women got on to the counter and spat at the victim and the other threw a jar of pickled eggs before shouting racist insults. (Hastings & St. Leonards Observer, 1 February 2011)
  • 2 January 2011: A 50-year-old man working in a takeaway in Derbyshire was subjected to racial abuse and punched in the face by two males just after midnight. The attackers ran away after the assault. (Derby Telegraph, 29 January 2011)
  • 13 December 2010: A group of teenagers who had been throwing snowballs at staff in an Indian restaurant in Carlisle went on to shout racist abuse and threatened to slit their throats. The incident happened at about 9.45pm and one of the attackers was brandishing an instrument which was thought to be a knife. (Cumbria Police, 1 February 2011)
  • 7 December 2010: A 37-year-old man subjected a staff member of the Natural Spice takeaway in Paisley, near Glasgow to racist abuse. In court, his lawyer stated that the defendant had in a previous attack been thrown in front of a train and that his injuries had caused a permanent personality change. (Daily Express, 20 December 2010)
  • 21 November 2010: A kitchen worker at an Indian restaurant in Marlborough, Wiltshire had a piece of concrete thrown at him which grazed his hand. Racist graffiti was also daubed on the premises. (Gazette & Herald, 25 November 2010)
  • 17 November 2010: Carly Patricia, 19, had to be forcibly removed from a fast food outlet in Bridgwater, Somerset at about midnight after calling a member of staff a ‘foreigner’, swearing at him and using racially offensive language. The member of staff touched her on the arm, to show her the door to leave, and Patricia later claimed she was assaulted. (This is the West Country, 13 December 2010)
  • 23 October 2010: Members of staff in a takeaway in Grantham, Lincolnshire were racially abused by Adam Roberts, 21, after they corrected him when he confused a kebab with a pizza. Roberts went on to smash the glass in the door of the premises. (Grantham Journal, 1 November 2010)
  • 26 September 2010: Ashley Wilson, 24, smashed a glass pane in an Indian restaurant in Eastover, Somerset and threatened to cut waiters’ faces because they served halal meat. Wilson asked two members of staff if they were Muslim and, when they said ‘yes’, he told them, ‘I’m going to cut your face … because I’m EDL’. (Kirklees Unity, 16 November 2010)
  • 12 September 2010: At about 5am a businessman, who intervened when workers in a Chinese takeaway in Rossendale, Lancashire were subjected to racist abuse, was beaten so severely that he was left with a shattered ankle, cracked ribs and a bruised face. The attackers dragged him outside the building and stamped on him. (Lancashire Telegraph, 16 September 2010)
  • 22 August 2010: Just after midnight a brick was thrown through the window of a takeaway in Kirton, Lincolnshire. Four 16-year-old boys were arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage. (BBC News, 23 August 2010)
  • 16 August 2010: Three members of staff of an Iranian takeaway in Bradford were treated in hospital after a firebomb was thrown at their faces at about 1.25am. The attack to the takeaway came after an argument between the staff and customers. (BBC News, 17 August 2010)
  • 15 August 2010: At about 4.20am three white men shouted racist abuse at staff members of a takeaway in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and proceeded to throw bottles. (BBC News, 16 August 2010)
  • 11 August 2010: Two teenagers were arrested after abusing members of staff, in the evening, at an Indian restaurant in Carlisle which had repeatedly been subjected to racist attacks in the past. (News & Star, 13 August 2010)

Staff of service stations, supermarkets and stores: Attacks in stores selling products such as cigarettes and alcohol are prevalent and frequently occur when customers are either refused service (because, for example, they are underage) or are caught shoplifting. In numerous cases the victims are the sole worker in a store.

  • 19 January 2011: At about 9.50pm Thomas Bates, 19, racially abused a married Asian couple working in a garage in Worcester when they refused to give him two packets of cigarettes until he had paid for them. Bates, who had been drinking prior to the incident, told the couple that they should ‘go home’, stole £43 from the private office in the garage and left through a fire exit. (Worcester News, 4 February 2011)
  • 1 January 2011: A family, who live above their shop, were left terrified when four men attacked their business at about 1.25am on New Year’s Day in Cinderford, Gloucestershire. The assailants shouted racist abuse outside the house and threw a brick through the front door. (BBC News, 4 January 2011)
  • 21 December 2010: Nigel Reilly, 29, racially abused an Asian petrol station attendant in Sutton, London after he refused to sell him cigarettes. Reilly, who had been drinking throughout the day, banged on the door, insulted the victim’s mother and said ‘Ooh Allah, ooh Allah. Allah sees you selling cigarettes and alcohol. Allah sees you and Allah’s angry with you’. (Croydon Guardian, 1 February 2011)
  • 1 December 2010: At about 9.40pm in a Tesco store in Accrington, Lancashire a member of staff was racially abused by a man after he refused to serve him alcohol. (Lancashire Telegraph, 13 January 2011)
  • 16 October 2010: Christina Crispin, a Sefton council employee, subjected an Asian shop worker to racist abuse in an evening shopping trip after he advised her to use a shopping basket. Crispin had dropped a can of lager on the floor of a Supersaver store in Bootle. Kanagasingam Sivachelvan, the owner of the store, said that earlier in the year racist graffiti had been sprayed on the shutters. (Liverpool Echo, 29 October 2010)
  • 3 October 2010: A teenage girl who tried to buy cigarettes from a service station in Greater Manchester at about 9.30pm was refused as she did not have proof of age. She subsequently hit the service counter and racially abused the Asian cashier. (Asian Image, 1 December 2010)
  • 11 September 2010: Franck Goffry, a security guard at a Tesco store in Gloucester, was subjected to a torrent of racist abuse when he challenged a man trying to steal alcohol at about 7.45pm. Goffry, originally from the Ivory Coast, said that he was considering moving away from the area because of ongoing racism. (This is Gloucestershire, 7 October 2010)
  • 28 August 2010: Nicholas Price, 18, racially abused and threw a punch at a member of staff at a service station in Newton, Wrexham after he refused to sell him cigarettes. After he was arrested by the police he told them that he attacked the man because, ‘He is black, so he’s a P**i’. (The Leader, 4 November 2010)
  • 1 August 2010: At about 4.30am a group of youths were challenged by a member of staff who caught them trying to steal from a service station in Ringwood, Hampshire. They consequently subjected him to racist abuse, before driving away. (Salisbury Journal, 26 August 2010)

Taxi ranks and taxi drivers: Taxi drivers, working alone and at night, are vulnerable to attack, physical violence and occasionally criminal damage.

  • 11 January 2011: A taxi driver was racially abused and attacked by a group of about twelve youths at approximately 8pm in Wakefield. The attackers jumped on the bonnet of the car, before an older teenager opened the door and punched the driver. (Yorkshire Evening Post, 13 January 2011)
  • 18 December 2010: At about 5.40am, a Romanian taxi driver picked up five passengers – four white men and one Asian woman – in Plymouth. The passengers subjected him to racist abuse, threatened to stab him and punched him repeatedly through the hatch between the front and rear of the cab. He was left with cuts, scratches and swelling to his arm and wrist. (Plymouth Herald, 28 January 2011)
  • 6 November 2010: A 28-year-old taxi driver was racially abused in his parked vehicle at about 10.30pm in Winchester. The attackers then punched him in the head and kicked his car. (Hampshire Chronicle, 27 November 2010)
  • 14 September 2010: Two Asian members of staff at a taxi firm in Accrington, Lancashire were subjected to racist abuse, just after midnight, by four men. The perpetrators went on to punch a glass screen in the taxi-rank before smashing a computer monitor. (This is Lancashire, 16 September 2010)
  • 8 September 2010: Kelly Roebuck and Christopher Heels, who had been celebrating their engagement in Pontefract, in West Yorkshire, refused to pay the full fare for their taxi journey home and racially abused the driver before kicking the car. (Hemsworth and South Elmsall Express, 8 February 2011)

Hospitals and public transport: In some cases, people whose jobs necessarily put them in contact with individuals or groups of people who have been drinking late at night also face violence. This violence occurs, in some examples, despite attempts to help the perpetrator.

  • 11 December 2010: At about 2.40am a white male racially abused a bus driver who had stopped in Oxford and proceeded to pull his glasses off his face and break them. (Oxford Times, 14 December 2010)
  • 29 August 2010: David Bell, 27, attacked a member of staff in a hospital in Burton, Staffordshire after being brought in drunk by paramedics. Bell kicked a security guard and told him to ‘go back to his own country’ before walking out of the hospital and punching a car windscreen. (Burton Mail, 11 November 2010)
  • 25 August 2010: A London Underground employee at a tube station in north London was racially abused by Noel Walker when he tried to help him after finding him drunk and semi-conscious. A member of the public who challenged Walker over his racist behaviour ended up in a tussle with him before police were called. (Haringey Independent, 27 October 2010)
  • 11 August 2010: A Polish man travelling to work by bus in Islington, London was attacked by two drunken men, who had previously been shouting racist abuse at other passengers, at about 11.10pm. The attackers smashed a piece of glass and rammed it in his face. (Islington Gazette, 19 August 2010)
Streets and public spaces

The cases documented above have exposed how people from BME communities within their workplace, or members of the public within (or in the vicinity of) licensed premises, face the threat of racial violence. Our records further indicate that attacks frequently happen in public places – predominantly on the streets but also on public transport.

Racial attacks on individuals on the streets often appear unprovoked and in the majority (although not all) of the cases we have documented leave their victims needing hospital treatment. An indication of the severity of violence is emphasised in one incident (detailed below) in which a man whipped his victim with a belt after punching him repeatedly. In a small number of cases the victims are robbed after an assault has taken place and, frequently, attacks are alcohol-related.

  • 20 January 2011: International student Moses Musaruwa, 18, was racially abused in Portsea, Portsmouth at about 11.30pm with the attacker threatening him with a kitchen knife. Musaruwa said that he was considering moving from his home because of the incident. (The News, 29 January 2011)
  • 5 December 2010: A 28-year-old Polish man was chased and subjected to racist abuse by two males in the early hours of the morning near a service station in Pathway, Bristol. When they caught him they punched him and, after he managed to escape to his home, followed him and smashed a glass panel in his door. (This is Bristol, 7 December 2010)
  • 5 November 2010: A 30-year-old man was racially abused and attacked by two people at approximately 10pm in Sunbury, Surrey. The police officer leading the investigation described the attack as ‘nasty and unprovoked’. (Staines News, 24 November 2010)
  • 30 October 2010: Ross Robertson, 19, racially abused three people outside a fish and chip shop, in Lerwick town centre, in the evening. He repeatedly called the three people ‘n*****s’ and injured a woman after grabbing her hand. (Shetland News, 2 November 2010)
  • 24 October 2010: A 22-year-old Middle-Eastern student was approached by approximately seven men at about 1.30am in Plymouth. One of the group racially abused him before another beat him unconscious and the attackers went on to steal his belt and £20. The student, who suffered a fractured eye-socket in the attack, said of the attack ‘I felt everything go black – I couldn’t see. I then remember curling myself up, being kicked all over’. (Plymouth Herald, 24 October 2010)
  • 22 October 2010: A 39-year-old Kurdish man was assaulted by a white man at about 3.40am outside a post office in Plymouth. The victim was racially abused, before his attacker punched him on his head and body and whipped him with a belt. The victim was left bleeding, bruised and subsequently became too afraid to leave his home. (Plymouth Herald, 24 October 2010)
  • 17 October 2010: Victoria McClean, 18, and a female friend verbally abused a group of Asian men outside an Indian restaurant in Worcester. McClean shouted drunken abuse at the men, calling them ‘dirty’ and telling them to ‘go back to their own country’. She pleaded guilty to racially aggravated public disorder but in defence claimed that a male friend had been assaulted prior to the incident. (Worcester News, 27 January 2011)
  • 17 October 2010: A group of students were subjected to racial abuse by two white men in Sunderland city centre early in the evening. (Sunderland Echo, 17 October 2010)
  • 9 October 2010: A 21-year-old Indian man was attacked in Edinburgh after he intervened to help a woman arguing with two white men, one of whom was trying to kiss her. The victim was racially abused by one man and punched until he fell to the ground; the other proceeded to kick him repeatedly while he was prone on the floor. Three other men, who were friends of the attackers, stood around the assault to prevent witnesses from seeing what was happening. The incident, which happened at about 3.40am, left the victim with a broken jaw and needing an operation to have a metal plate inserted. He also lost his job as his employer would not give him time off to get treatment and recover from his injuries. (Evening Times, 13 October 2010)
  • 2 October 2010: At approximately 1am a 36-year-old man was racially abused and thrown down on a footpath by three men in Ramsgate, east Kent. He was left with bruises all over his body. When a car pulled up alongside, the attackers proceeded to assault the passenger of the vehicle, before fleeing the scene. (Thanet News, 27 October 2010)
  • 1 October 2010: In Glasgow a 20-year-old Somali man, waiting at a bus stop, was attacked by a group of four youths (one of whom was female) at approximately 11.30pm. The victim was treated in hospital for head injuries. Police said that they were treating the attack as racially motivated. (BBC News, 2 October 2010)
  • 15 September 2010: A 15-year-old girl was approached by a white man who shouted racist comments at her at about 7.15pm in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. (The Bucks Herald, 29 September 2010)
  • 21 August 2010: A middle-aged Asian man was hospitalised for three days after an unprovoked attack by a drunken white man at about 7.45pm in London. Prior to being physically attacked the victim was subjected to racist abuse and chased. (This is Local London, 28 August 2010)
  • 1 August 2010: At about 10.30pm in the town centre of Halstead, Essex a Romanian couple were approached by six men who shouted racist abuse before attacking them. The attack, described by the police as ‘brutal’, left the woman with bruises, grazes, three cracked teeth, two black eyes and a bruised nose. (Halstead Gazette, 9 August 2010)
  • 1 August 2010: In York city centre a ‘mixed race’ woman was left in tears when she had drink thrown over her and was subjected to racist abuse on a street near a pub. The perpetrators threw the drink from inside a car, as they pulled up alongside her just before 7pm. (The York Press, 4 August 2010)

Related links

Read the IRR’s Factfile on the Racially Motivated Murders (Known or Suspected) 2000 onwards

Read the IRR’s Factfile on the Racially Motivated Murders (Known or Suspected) 1999 – 1999

References [1] Harmit Athwal, Jenny Bourne, and Rebecca Wood, Racial violence: the buried issue, IRR Briefing Paper No. 6 (London, Institute of Race Relations, 2010) [2] Melanie Singhji, 'Alone and unprotected, taxi drivers fear for their safety', Institute of Race Relations News, (14 October 2010), [3] Terry Bevan and Alistair Turnham, 'Night mix news', Night mix newsletter No. 1 (Newcastle, Trends Business Research, 2010).

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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