Atheist warehouse worker's clash with gospel-singing Christian colleague ends up at Portsmouth Crown Court

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AN ATHEIST warehouse worker has been cleared of racially harassing his gospel-singing Christian colleague – but did admit being abusive to him up to eight times a day for three years.

University drop-out David Hedley, 29, said Yenga Likanda-Ikuse ‘sang far too much, too loudly’ at the wing mirror manufacturer SMR Automotive’s warehouse in Portchester and admitted swearing and calling the 44-year-old stupid up to eight times a day.

David Hedley at Portsmouth Crown Court

David Hedley at Portsmouth Crown Court

Congolese Mr Likanda-Ikuse, a Christian, had alleged Mr Hedley used racial slurs against him. Mr Hedley was cleared of racially-aggravated harassment at a two-day trial after he denied using any racist language.

But during the trial at Portsmouth Crown Court Mr Hedley said the pair crossed paths at work 40 times a day. And asked how many times he used abusive – but non-racist terms – at his colleague out of those 40, Mr Hedley said: ‘One in 10, two in 10.’

Mr Hedley, who was sacked, accepted being abusive.

He said: ‘He riled me up the wrong way.’

The defendant said the pair had clashed over whether ‘atheists can’t blame god because they don’t believe in him’ – but then added he agreed with this.

The pair were responsible for taking finished products on different lines to a dispatch area but worked close.

Mr Likanda-Ikuse, who came to Britain in 2004, said: ‘I told him you need to love your neighbour like you love yourself.’

He added: ‘For me it’s “I forgive you but you need to change, it’s not right what you are doing”.’

The complainant, whose brother and sister died in Congo conflict, said the verbal abuse was ‘almost every single day when he (Mr Hedley) was on shift’.

Mr Hedley told jurors he thought it was ‘small potatoes’ and an allegation of harassment was ‘blowing it all out of proportion’.

He told jurors: ‘I’m not racist.’

Asked if he used the word black to describe Mr Likanda-Ikuse, Mr Hedley said: 'Not at him. Occasionally a conversation with someone else I’d refer to him as black because he is.’

Mr Hedley, of North End Avenue, Portsmouth, was cleared of racially-aggravated harassment between January 1, 2015 and June 19, last year.