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Man charged with 'religiously aggravated criminal damage' after London church cross removed

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Source: Google Street View

A man has appeared before magistrates charged with criminal damage after a cross was forcibly removed from a church roof in East London.

Yussef Alwali, 19, from Basildon, appeared before Barkingside Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday to face charges of 'causing racially or religiously aggravated criminal damage'.  

Magistrates heard how there had been "ongoing concerns" about Alwali, who spoke only to confirm his name, age and address.

Phillipa McCarthy, prosecuting, said:

"There have been ongoing concerns about this defendant.

"On this occasion, he has taken the cross off the Baptist Church. There are underlying issues.

"Given the racial undertones and Mr Alwali's background it would be outside your jurisdiction with regards to sentencing given the nature of the offence."

The case will now be moved to the Crown Court. 

Awali has not yet entered a plea and is due to undergo a medical evaluation. "There may be issues that may require further investigation," McCarthy added. 

The 19-year-old has been remanded in custody ahead of his scheduled appearance before Snaresbrook Crown Court on November 18.

On Monday, Chadwell Heath Baptist Church released a statement saying they were "distressed" by the incident, which involved a man throwing the large cross down to the street below, to the horror of onlookers.  

“The person seen was not part of our church," the church added. "We are thankful no one was hurt and do not want this to affect our ministry.

“We continue to pray for everyone in Chadwell Heath and will do our best to serve the community now and in the future.”

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