Emma West’s racist rant was watched by more than 11 million people after it was posted online
EMMA West has pleaded guilty to hurling racist abuse at passengers on a crowded Croydon tram.
The mother-of-two had maintained her innocence for nearly two years despite her rant being caught on camera and then watched by 11 million people after the video was posted on YouTube.
But at Croydon Crown Court yesterday (Monday) the 35-year-old dramatically changed her plea.
Her legal team had argued that West did not want to plead guilty for fear of being branded a racist.
Right wing groups such as the National Front and British National Party had adopted her cause after she was charged with a racially aggravated public order offence in November 2011.
West’s barrister said their support -including sending her flowers and cheques -had “greatly distressed” his client and led her try and take her own life.
Her deteriorating mental health led to concerns for her safety and that of her family, fears which were realised last month when she stabbed her husband Ricky Metson with a knife – while on bail – after he intervened in her latest attempt to self-harm.
Mr Metson suffered superficial injuries after incident at their home in Grenville Road, New Addington, on May 15.
The following day West appeared at Croydon Magistrates’ Court and was remanded in custody after pleading guilty to actual bodily harm and assaulting a police officer.
It was during a bail hearing in relation to this case that she changed her plea after both the prosecution and defence agreed to a compromise suggested by Judge Warwick McKinnon, the Recorder of Croydon, who had previously said the 20-month legal process was in danger of “spiraling out of control”.
West had denied racially aggravated intentional harassment on a tram travelling between Croydon and Wimbledon between September 30 and November 28, 2011.
However, she has now pleaded guilty to a lesser offence of racially aggravated harassment, alarm or distress, which crucially does not include mention of ‘intent’.
Unlike the original charge, which may have led to a custodial sentence, this is a summary offence normally dealt with by a magistrates’ court by way of a fine.
Both guilty pleas can now be revealed after a reporting restriction preventing details of the tram incident from being published was lifted.
West’s trial had been adjourned five times, most recently on April 9, amid debate as to whether she was fit to stand.
Other hearings in June, July and then September last year were put back, as well as a scheduled trial date in January.
West, who has suffered from depression since she was 18, was admitted to a psychiatric ward in Foxley Lane, Purley, in September 2011.
Following her release she had been receiving support at the Tamworth Road Resource Centre, in West Croydon.
It was as West returned from one of these sessions with her four-year-old son that racially abused passengers in a packed tram.
Her barrister, David Martin-Sperry, told the court during an earlier hearing that she had taken double the recommended dose of antidepressant Citalopram which had caused her to have “unusual” ideas.
A passenger recorded her bemoaning the impact of immigration on “her Britain”.
On the video, called My Tram Experience, she turns to one commuter and says: “You aren’t English”
She then looks around the carriage and shouts: “None of you are ******* English. Get back to your own ******* countries.”
With her son in her arms, who can be seen playing with a toy, another passenger intervenes: “Excuse me dear, there are little kids on the tram.”
“So What? I’ve got a little kid here,” replies West, who then dares the woman, who is black, to throw her off the tram before shouting: “Go back to ******* Nicaragua, or wherever you come from.”
West added: “You aren’t British, you’re black.”
Still holding her child, West turns and points at the passengers behind her: “Someone’s got to talk up for these lot. Look, the whole ******* tram, look at them.”
Another passenger asks: “What’s wrong with that?”
The woman replies: “Because it’s all black and ******* brown people.”
West was arrested after the video was posted online on November 28. She was charged with a racially aggravated public order offence.
A second charge was added after tram passenger Ena-May Eubanks complained West had punched her.
The prosecution is expected to offer no evidence to both charges after the compromise was struck.
West was bailed to return to Croydon Crown Court to be sentenced for the tram rant, and the assaults on her husband and the police officer, on July 1.
For the full story see this week’s Croydon Advertiser, out on Friday (June 7).