SINGAPORE - The 16-year-old behind the racial attack of a Singaporean, then a student in London, was sentenced on Wednesday (Jan 27) to an 18-month youth rehabilitation order.
A British court also ordered the teenager to follow a curfew from 8pm to 7am which will be electronically monitored and pay £600 (S$1,000) compensation to Mr Jonathan Mok, whose injuries from the attack had to be treated with facial surgery.
On Feb 24 last year, Mr Mok, 23, then a final year University College of London (UCL) law student, was told "we don't want your coronavirus in our country" and beaten up in Oxford Street in an "unprovoked attack", the court heard.
Chairman of the bench Mervyn Mandell said that had the 16-year-old been an adult he "would have gone to jail for a very long time".
"This was an unprovoked attack for no reason other than his appearance," he said.
Prosecutor Simon Maughan said the youth was "quick to get involved" in the group attack, the BBC reported.
The teenager was convicted of racially aggravated grievous bodily harm following a trial at Highbury Corner Youth Court earlier this month, confirming what the Metropolitan Police in London had investigated the case as - a racially motivated assault.
No one else has been charged in connection with the attack.
A victim impact statement read out on behalf of Mr Mok said the crime had "taken a heavy toll" on him and his family.
He added: "My legal education had to be halted for a month due to surgery and follow up medical appointments.
"I have anxiety and have problems sleeping. I believe the defendant is a threat to Singaporeans and South-east Asians. He has shown no remorse."
The youth's defence barrister Gerard Pitt said his client had turned himself in following a police CCTV appeal in March last year.
Mr Pitt said: "He has always maintained he did not say anything about coronavirus and that was vindicated at the court trial."
The court heard the boy had no previous convictions, but had two youth cautions for common assault.
Before being sentenced the teenager said: "When I saw the picture, I felt disgusted. I apologise for my actions."
Mr Mok is one of many people of Chinese ethnicity who were targeted in Europe and America by those who linked coronavirus with people from China, especially in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He wrote in a Facebook post following the incident, which has since been edited to remove details of the attack, that he only turned around to face the group after he heard them say "coronavirus" as he walked past them that night.
One of the group of five, which included a girl, then punched him in the face and said "I don't want your coronavirus in my country" before they fled.
He told The Straits Times then: "I thought it was important to share and start the debate.
"Race issues have been prevalent for so long and this shows how dangerous they can be... Even when they start off verbally, they can escalate to physical violence."
He had written in his post: "Why should anyone, simply because of the colour of their skin, be subjected to abuse, in any form, verbal or physical? Why should I keep quiet when someone makes a racist remark towards me.
"Racism is not stupidity - racism is hate. Racists constantly find excuses to expound their hatred - and in this current backdrop of the coronavirus, they've found yet another excuse."