A man in Llandrindod Wells, Wales, has been found guilty of assaulting Tesco staff and hurling a bottle at a police officer whilst shouting antisemitic abuse, but in an appallingly lenient sentence, he has been spared jail, despite being a repeat offender.
Philip Anthony Kuegler, 50, pleaded guilty to a charge of using religiously aggravated threatening words or behaviour to cause fear of violence and to assaulting a police officer at Llandrindod Wells Magistrates’ Court. We are staggered however by his light sentence. Kuegler escaped with a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years, meaning that he walked free from court and will remain free so long as he does not reoffend and completes 20 rehabilitation activity days and five hate crime sessions, pays the police officer £300 in compensation and pays a £115 victim surcharge.
Prosecutor Stephen Davies said that Kuegler was the last customer at Llandrindod Wells Tesco just after midnight on 15th September, when he became abusive towards a member of staff. He was trying to purchase three bottles of cider at a self-service checkout but became angry when a member of staff informed him that the machine only operated using bank cards. Kuegler reportedly shouted at staff that everyone who works at Tesco is Jewish and squared up to the night manager, Mr Robinson, who told Kuegler he was Jewish himself and found his comments offensive. Mr Davies said that “The manager asked him to leave but he continued to shout and swear about Jews. He placed his forehead against Mr Robinson’s and [Mr Robinson] thought he was going to headbutt him. He pulled out one of the bottles and held it over Mr Robinson’s head.” Kuegler then smashed the bottle on the ground and walked away. According to statements given by staff to Dyfed-Powys Police, Kuegler was “extremely aggressive and abusive,” appeared drunk and made comments such as “they are all Jews”.
When a police officer found Kuegler on a bench outside a hotel, he tried to walk away. When the officer followed him, he turned and threw one of the cider bottles at him, which went over the officer’s head as he ducked. Mr Davies said Kuegler then grabbed the officer and spat at him, hitting him in the face and eyes. He was arrested and interviewed, saying he only remembered speaking to Tesco staff and smashing a bottle in the car park.
At the trial, a probation officer gave evidence, saying: “He has some difficulty with people he perceives as being disrespectful to him. He has accepted responsibility and accepted that the offences are serious and need to be addressed.” He added that Kuegler suffers from anxiety and depression and recommended a suspended sentence to include a course of sessions on hate crime, saying Kuegler complied well with a previous suspended sentence.
Defending Kuegler, Gareth Walters said: “In his own words, he doesn’t drink too often but when he does drink he drinks to excess and beyond that. The comments in relation to Jewish people were directed to Tesco in general, he didn’t know the manager was Jewish. It was a very silly and drunken outburst but it was a very short lived incident.
Indefensibly lenient sentences such as this endanger the Jewish community and society in general. Philip Kuegler violently abused Tesco staff, believing them to be Jews, and could easily have seriously injured the police officer. This sentence sends a clear message to antisemites that they may escape with minimal consequences, and sends a message to British Jews that the criminal justice system may fail them and leave them vulnerable.
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