Salaam Community Centre, Hartlepool
The attack took place inside the Salaam Community Centre, Hartlepool Google maps

A father spat in the face of a fellow Muslim and branded her "ignorant" during a dispute about a Christian sign that was placed in a multicultural community centre.

Said Ahmed Latif, 36, admitted to losing his temper after becoming "upset" by the sign, which said 'Church of God', at the Salam Centre in Hartlepool.

Teesside Magistrates' Court heard that Latif and the centre's manager had been embroiled in a dispute about the object, which was erected after a Christian group began using the venue.

Prosecutor Holly Common told the court that Latif approached the unnamed victim outside the centre on 22 January at around 12.50pm, saying: "I need to speak to you."

Common added: "He crossed the road and said he could speak inside the centre. When inside the office, Latif began shouting 'Why are you letting them use the centre?'

"He said, 'You are an ignorant Muslim, you aren't listening to me'."

"He continued with a tirade of abuse before adding: "You shouldn't be here, you're upsetting us young Muslims'."

Common said that the father of three then raised his fist as if he were about to hit the victim but instead spat into her face. He was then forced out of the office by the victim and a colleague.

A victim statement made by the manager was read out to the court. It said: "I was really upset about what happened. In 15 years I've never had anything like this happen to me.

It continued: "He tried to bully me and certain members of staff to only let in certain members of the community."

Teeside Magistrates' Court
Latif admitted the offence at Teeside Magistrates' Court Google Earth

Latif, who represented himself, told the court he had been incensed when the victim called him an "extremist".

He added: "We are a small ethnic community, they've put a church group sign up saying 'Church of God' right next to the door to the mosque. I said 'can you move the sign to the other side?'"

"It's a shame CCTV didn't show who was shouting at who. She started shouting at me – she called me an extremist. I plead guilty, I did spit at her – I lost my temper."

District Judge Helen Cousins asked Latif if there was anything else he wanted to tell the court.

He said: "I apologise to her. I should pay compensation."

Latif, from Clifton Avenue in Hartlepool, admitted assault and was given 60 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £50 to the victim in compensation, as well as costs and charges.