Fashion icon let off with symbolic fine

By John Lichfield

A French court yesterday convicted British fashion designer John Galliano of hurling racial abuse in a Paris bar, but gave him a relatively lenient sentence.

Galliano, 50, who did not appear in court, was given suspended fines totalling €6000 ($10,000) for making "public anti-Semitic and racist remarks" in February this year and in October 2010.

He was ordered to pay a symbolic €1 in damages to his victims and pay the legal costs of five anti-racist organisations which were represented at his trial in June.

His lawyer, Aurelien Hamelle, said: "This is a good decision. It amounts to no penalty."

He said Galliano was now "serene, relieved and pleased that this is all behind him. He hopes to face the future with happiness and forgiveness".

In a written summary of its verdict and sentence, the court said it had taken into account Galliano's apologies at the June hearing. It had also taken into account that his racist remarks - however unpleasant - had been intended for just a handful of people. That they had been given "extreme publicity" all around the world was "not the fault of the accused".

In emotional statements to the court in June, the designer blamed his behaviour on overwork, the pressures of the fashion industry and a triple addiction to alcohol, Valium and sleeping pills. He said that his racist remarks were completely out of character.

Galliano told the court he could "hardly remember" his racist abuse of two customers at the Perle bar in the Marais district of Paris on February 24.

Geraldine Bloch said the designer had used the word "Jewish" at least 30 times, including accusing her of having a "dirty Jewish face".

Her friend, Philippe Virgitti, said that Galliano had called him a "f***ing Asian bastard". Bloch is not Jewish and Virgitti is not Asian.

Galliano was also accused of calling another woman a "f***ing ugly Jewish bitch" in the same bar the previous October.

A videotape appeared to show a third incident in the Perle bar in December. On the tape, Galliano, apparently drunk, says: "I love Hitler, and people like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers, would be ... gassed and ... dead."

The tape was not the subject of a separate charge but was shown as circumstantial evidence in June.

"On this video, I see someone who needs help," Galliano told the court at the time. "This man is not John Galliano. It's the shell of John Galliano, someone who has been pushed to the limit."

The fashion designer said he had been under "huge pressure" since the death of his father in 2005 and the death of a "very dear friend" in 2007.

"I would like to apologise for all the upset this business has caused."

- Independent

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