EU president steps in as Leeds police arrest four over ‘racist’ attack on Polish man

Leeds District Commander, Chf Supt Paul Money. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Leeds District Commander, Chf Supt Paul Money. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

THE MURDER of a Polish man and the suspected rise in hate crime following the Brexit vote have been condemned by the European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker.

His intervention came as police in Leeds arrested four teenagers in connection with what they termed a racially aggravated assault by 20 men on a Polish national.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

Mr Juncker defended the free movement of EU citizens - seen as a key factor in the UK’s vote to leave - as he denounced the killing of Arkadiusz Jozwik in Harlow, Essex, last month.

Police are treating the attack as a possible hate crime and six teenagers, aged 15 and 16, have been arrested and released on bail.

Poles have been victims of a series of incidents since the vote to leave the EU in June, including the assault of two Polish men within hours of a vigil following Mr Jozwik’s death.

Amid the violence, Theresa May called the Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo to express her “deep regret” and to stress that “hate crime has no place in UK society”.

Mr Juncker intervened during his state of the EU address to the European Parliament, saying: “We Europeans can never accept, never, Polish workers being harassed, beaten up or even murdered in the streets of Essex.”

He added: “The free movement of workers is as much a common European value as our fight against discrimination and racism.”

Mr Juncker suggested Britain could not be a member of the European single market and regain full control over immigration from the continent.

West Yorkshire Police said the 28-year-old Leeds victim was seriously injured when he was kicked and punched by a group of up to 20 youths in Alliance Street, Armley.

Officers said he and a friend had been confronted by the group and assaulted in nearby Town Street, shortly beforehand.

The attack prompted a statement from the Polish Consulate in Manchester, saying it was the most serious of more than ten xenophobic incidents involving Polish people it had dealt with in the North of England.

These are understood to include another in Leeds, three months ago, in which a shopkeeper was verbally abused at his premises in Bramley.

Consul General Lukasz Lutostanski said; “We are grateful to the police for a decisive response and promise to send additional patrols to the area of the crime scene. We will work together on solutions that will permanently increase the safety of Polish nationals.”

Mr Lutostanski met Leeds district police commander, Chief Superintendent Paul Money, who said yesterday that enquiries were continuing to trace others involved in the latest attack.

He added: “Given the understandable concern that this incident has caused among people in Leeds, particularly the local Polish community, and the wider focus there has been on it, we have prioritised the investigation to ensure that we are doing everything we can to bring our enquiries to a successful conclusion.

“Hate crime and hate incidents are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in any form.”