A man who attacked the Respect MP George Galloway while calling him an “anti-semite little man” in a London street has been jailed for 16 months.
Drug addict Neil Masterson, 39, left the pro-Palestine MP for Bradford West with cuts and bruises to his head and ribs and requiring hospital treatment after the frenzied assault in Notting Hill in August.
Masterson, who was wearing a pink t-shirt with an Israeli Defence Force logo when he was arrested nearby, told police he felt “morally justified” in attacking the MP because he was a “Nazi” with a “shameful” attitude towards Jews, Isleworth Crown Court heard.
Galloway, the court heard, believes he would have been killed if Masterson, who had “recently undergone a conversion towards Judaism”, had been armed with a knife during their chance meeting.
Masterson, of Kensington, who used to work for the Department of Work and Pensions and as a manager at the BBC, had previously admitted assaulting Mr Galloway and a second charge of common assault against a man who had been posing for a picture with the MP as the attack happened.
Judge Aidan Marron QC told the clean-shaven and smartly suited Masterson: “While you are no longer facing a charge of religiously aggravated assault, it would be unreal to ignore that the motivation for this … was your profound hostility to Mr Galloway’s views.”
He added that Masterson’s “loathing” of Galloway was manifested by what he did at the start of the assault and said afterwards in interviews.
The court heard that 60-year-old former Labour MP Mr Galloway had been in London on private business when the attack happened at around 7.25pm on Friday August 29.
He was posing for a photo near his car in Golborne Road with Moroccan doctor Mostafa Maroof and a friend when Masterson approached them “in a rage”, prosecutor Michelle Nelson told the court.
She said he mentioned the Holocaust, leading Mr Galloway to fear he was a right-wing extremist.
The attack on the MP included 10 punches and a “Kung-fu style” kick which did not connect but caused Mr Galloway to fall into the road, where Masterson continued hitting him.
Mr Maroof, who was shoved over in the attack, and his friend managed to push Masterson away and prevent him from launching another attack before he fled onto a bus, the court heard.
The three men called 999 and then got in Mr Galloway’s car to follow Masterson’s bus, despite police telling them not to.
They flagged down a passing patrol car which stopped the bus and officers arrested Masterson.
Ms Nelson said Masterson admitted to police he said “Anti-semitic little man, I f****** despise you” during the attack and described Galloway as “a morally and intellectually bankrupt person”.
She added: “The defendant said that he wanted to make Mr Galloway realise that his attitude towards Jews was shameful, it shames all Catholics and it shames anyone who has any idea of humanity.
“He felt he (Galloway) is a serpent in a way.”
She continued: “He felt he was morally justified in assaulting Mr Galloway. He said he thought Galloway was a Nazi and his political views were hate.”
Mr Galloway welcomed the sentence but questioned the decision to drop a charge of religiously aggravated assault.
He said: “The sentence is reasonable in the circumstances. However, had the charge of religiously aggravated assault not been dropped I’m sure it would have been considerably longer and I fail to see why that charge was dropped given that he was wearing an IDF T-shirt and screaming about Israel and me.
“If an Asian man wearing a Palestinian T-shirt had attacked a pro-Israeli MP would the sentence have been the same?”
In a victim impact statement read in court Mr Galloway described still being in pain from his injuries and how it had left his wife and children in a “constant state of worry”.
“I no longer go anywhere alone”, he wrote.
“I now need to have someone with me while working.”
The court heard that Masterson had been a functioning heroin addict for 25 years but had been “cold turkey” for two weeks at the time of the attack and had been having trouble sleeping.
While politically opposed to Mr Galloway it was “a very bad piece of coincidence” that put him in the same street as the MP, defence barrister Jonathan Mann said.
He said his client was a normally peaceful and tolerant man to those with different political views, but his conversion had drawn him towards confronting what he felt was “a rising tide of anti-semitism dressed up as anti-zionism”.
Mr Mann added: “He felt Mr Galloway was at the epicentre of those that were attempting to justify their anti-semitism in that way. I’m not saying that is right but that is what he felt, that he (Galloway) was making things worse by some of the public comments that he made.
“The defendant felt that … he was almost attempting to make these views trendy and fashionable (and) he was dangerous because he has a fashionable cachet that blinds people to him.”
Mr Mann added: “Masterson realises now that there is no excuse for violence. He is not a man who is filled with hate. It is very much the opposite of the person that he is.”
Masterson was jailed for 16 months for the assault on the MP and two months for the attack on Mr Maroof, to be served concurrently.
Mr Mann said that after serving his sentence Masterson has been offered flights and a place on a Kibbutz in Israel where he plans to spend up to a year doing voluntary work.