A MAN who ripped a niqab off the face of a Muslim woman was affected by politicians and the press "playing the race card" during the Brexit vote, his barrister claimed.

Peter Scotter, 56, of Beach Street, Roker, Sunderland, assaulted the mother, who was shopping with her nine-year-old son and husband, and said: "You are in our country now, you stupid f****** Muslim."

The force he used to pull off the garment in July last year in the Bridges Shopping Centre, Sunderland, caused her to fall to the floor.

He continued to shout abuse, including "take that f***** off", "I'm taking my f****** country back" and "it's our Britain, stick by our rules, these black b******s with their masks and veils, I will pull them off every time".

Tony Hawks, defending, told Newcastle Crown Court that there was "no doubt that what he did was an ignorant and despicable piece of behaviour" and he was an "ignorant and ill-educated man" who "knows nothing whatsoever about Islam".

But he added: "Its no coincidence that this occurred within a week or so of the Brexit referendum. Where the press and politicians were banging the drum about taking our country back.

"They were playing the race card and, in the case of Ukip, a disgraceful advertisement showing a queue of refugees.

"He has to take responsibility for his own actions, but is it simply a coincidence that after listening to weeks of that rhetoric the defendant was not affected?"

At a previous hearing, Scotter admitted racially aggravated assault by beating and racially aggravated harassment.

He has also been receiving treatment for cancer in his mouth, meaning the case has been postponed a number of times.

The court heard he had 70 previous convictions, including throwing bricks with racist stickers on them at a house with refugees inside.

Prosecutor Neil Pallister said the victim described how she regularly suffers abuse, but this was way beyond what she and her family normally endured.

She said it had left her fearful to go out and "disgusted" that it had happened in front of her son.

Jailing Scotter for 15 months, Judge Stephen Earl said: "Comments such as these cannot be acceptable in a civilised society."

He also ordered him to pay a victim surcharge of £140.

Sharon Elves, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “This was a terrifying attack in which Peter Scotter attacked a mother who was shopping with her nine year old son, subjecting them to an expletive ridden torrent of racist abuse.

“Safety and security and the right to live free from fear and harassment are fundamental human rights. Criminal offences that are driven by hostility or hatred based on personal characteristics undermine the very principles of fairness and equality upon which our society is built. 

“Crimes such as this are based on ignorance, prejudice, discrimination and hate, values which have no place in an open and democratic society.”