An attack on a Singaporean law student by a 15-year-old boy over coronavirus was “racially motivated”, magistrates have found.
Jonathan Mok, 24, was left bloodied and bruised and required surgery on his face after he was assaulted by the teenager and his group of friends on Oxford Street on February 24 last year.
The teenager, who cannot be named due to his age, was found guilty of racially aggravated grievous bodily harm (GBH) at Highbury Corner Youth Court on Monday.
He had previously admitted wounding or inflicting GBH but denied it was racially motivated, telling his trial in December he had not mentioned coronavirus and was not a racist.
But the court heard that several people had witnessed the word “disease” or “coronavirus” from a few metres away.
Chairwoman of the bench Lesley Ward said the evidence showed the teenager’s version of events was “not plausible” and could not be believed.
She told the teenager: “Given the number of witnesses and your proximity to the incident, we feel it’s not plausible that you missed the racist term being used and it’s therefore difficult to believe your version of events.”
Ms Ward said the attack had been “unprovoked and racially motivated”.
The court had previously heard that after the friend of the 15-year-old made a remark about coronavirus towards Mr Mok, the student turned around.
The defendant’s friend then said “don’t you look at me” before punching Mr Mok in the face without warning, the court head.
Mr Mok, who had been studying in London for two years at the time of the attack, told the trial his nose “exploded” following the first punch.
The court heard that the 15-year-old boy then joined in the attack, punching and kicking Mr Mok and making a “racist” comment.
Mr Mok said the teenage defendant told him: “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country.”
Asked what he thought the comment meant, Mr Mok told the trial: “My interpretation was he believed that I was the one who brought the coronavirus to this country, or people who look like me.
“I was angry… it was quite shocking because I never expected to face this sort of incident, I have never heard this kind of comment the whole time while studying in London.”
The teenager had previously denied kicking Mr Mok or hearing any mention of coronavirus in his group of friends.
He had told the court that “no one said anything towards Mr Mok about his ethnicity”.
He had also said he believed coronavirus was “fake” at the time of the incident.
The youth was released on unconditional bail and will be sentenced at Highbury Corner Youth Court on January 27.