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Worlingham: ‘Racist toy’ accused suspended from hospital role

PUBLISHED: 06:00 14 September 2011

Jena Mason leaving Lowestoft Magistrates' Court

Jena Mason leaving Lowestoft Magistrates' Court

Archant © 2011

A GRANDMOTHER appeared in court yesterday to deny a charge of causing racially aggravated harassment by placing a golliwog in the window of her home.

Jena Mason, of Worlingham, near Beccles, is alleged to have offended her neighbours Stephen and Rosemarie O’Donnell, who is Jamaican, by putting the toy in the window of Worlingham Manor, in College Lane in August.

Appearing at Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court Mason, 65, pleaded not guilty to one count of displaying some writing, signs or other visible representation which was threatening, abusive or insulting within the hearing or sight of person likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress which was racially or religiously aggravated.

As Mason, 65, appeared in court it emerged that she has been suspended from her role as a non-executive director at the James Paget University Hospital, Gorleston, while legal proceedings carry on.

Mason arrived at the court yesterday flanked by her husband and two other men, who attempted to fend off media at the court entrance.

Wearing a cream a cream suit she only spoke in the dock to confirm her name, age and address to the three magistrates.

Apart from the charge being read , no other details of the allegations were mentioned in court, apart from that up to 11 witnesses, including an expert witness, were needed for the eventual trial of Mason.

She was arrested by police on August 7 after her neighbours had complained to officers about the golliwog appearing in the window of the Mason’s home.

The O’Donnells, who have mixed race children, claim the toy, which are considered racist by many people, caused offence to the family, who are said to have been in a dispute with their neighbours.

At yesterday’s hearing magistrates adjourned Mason’s case until October 11 for a case management hearing in which a date for her trial at the magistreates court will be set.

Mason does not have to attend next month’s hearing.

She was given unconditional bail until her next appearance and the chair of the bench Katy Clark warned her she could be fined or imprisoned if she offended while out on bail.

In court she was represented by James Hartley who had previously told the EDP the placing of the golliwog in the window was an “innocent act which has been interpreted in a completely different way”.

Mr Hartley has also said Mason is “devastated” by the proceedings.

Mason has been a non-executive director of the James Paget University Hospital since 2001 and she has been suspended since August due to the allegation she is facing under section 28 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

Her profile on the trust website says she is a senior member of its safety, quality and governance committee and serves as a hospital trust governor.

She is also described on the website as having “local business experience as managing director of establishments in the private healthcare sector”.

A hospital trust spokesman said: “We can confirm that a non executive director of the trust has been suspended from her post pending the outcome of a police investigation.

“Action was taken with immediate effect once the alleged offence was brought to the trust’s attention by the individual concerned in mid August.

“Until the outcome of the investigation is known, it would be inappropriate to comment further on this matter.”

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