Sales rep is jailed over 'race abuse' lies

A sales rep was jailed for 12 months yesterday for "playing the race card" by falsely claiming a traffic warden had racially abused him and attacked him to avoid paying for a parking ticket.

Ben Hlal was also convicted of making another false allegation of racial abuse against a consultant doctor after he confronted the defendant for parking in a disabled bay outside a hospital.

Hlal, from Fareham, Hampshire, was found guilty of two charges of perverting the course of public justice and was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for both offences to run concurrently.

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His estranged wife, Diane Bateman, 52, from Gosport, was found guilty of one offence of perverting the course of justice after the jury found her guilty by providing a statement in support of Hlal.

Bateman, a caterer for an old people's home, was given a six-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, 100 hours community service and ordered to pay 500 costs.

Sentencing Hlal at Portsmouth Crown Court, Judge Roger Hetherington said: "This was a concerted and determined tactic employed by you on two separate occasions and pursued to the bitter end to make a deliberately false allegation against two wholly innocent men.

"Your motivation was partly self-interest to get yourself out of a situation where you were clearly wrong, and partly in anger that anyone should have the temerity to challenge you.

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"You have deliberately played the race card knowing it would cause maximum embarrassment to those on the receiving end and would be treated seriously by the authorities.

"The seriousness of these offences lies not just in the distress and anxiety felt by the victims, but also in the fact it strikes at the root of public justice and undermines people's confidence in the system."