Jail for racist who abused Polish mum in Stevenage supermarket – if he re-offends

PUBLISHED: 18:43 17 May 2017 | UPDATED: 18:48 17 May 2017

Darren Balaam

Darren Balaam

Archant

A racist who launched a tirade of abuse at a Polish mum and her family in a Stevenage supermarket has been handed a suspended jail sentence.

Darren Balaam, 47, of York Road in Stevenage, was found guilty of using racially-aggravated threatening and abusive language against a Polish victim, who wishes to be known only as Marta, at the Aldi supermarket in Failrlands Way on January 18.

Marta captured the tail end of the outburst on a video using her mobile phone as Balaam told her to ‘just go back’ to her own country.

She had been shopping with her two children, aged three and nine years old, when Balaam – who she doesn’t know – approached her.

She told the Comet: “I had just met my friend in the supermarket and we were having a conversation.

“This man passed by us and suddenly said: ‘Start speaking English’.

“I said: ‘Excuse me?’

“He then swore at me twice and told me to go back to my country, making an offensive comment about me being Polish.

“I asked him: ‘What’s your problem? Would you like to ask anything else about my country?’

“He said: ‘Just go back’.

“I called for the manager and told them what was happening and my husband came over, and then he stopped shouting at us, but he carried on saying things quietly.”

The video clearly shows the man turning towards her and saying: ‘Just go back’.

It then shows her asking him why he thinks it’s OK to make such comments about her, and he replies: ‘Freedom of speech’.

Marta said in 5½ years living in Stevenage it is the first time she has ever experienced such abuse, which ‘made it so surprising’.

She told the Comet: “He can think whatever he wants, but he can’t upset my family and my children.

Marta went to school in London before returning to Poland, but moved back to England for work. The assistant restaurant manager added: “I’ve worked hard here and have a good job. Stevenage has always been a very welcoming place on the whole.”

Balaam was handed a previous 12-month suspended jail sentence on November 22 last year for sending malicious text messages and private photos to cause distress. He must also observe a 12-week curfew, attend a rehabilitation programme and pay a total of £755 costs.

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