A teenage apprentice was too afraid to report workmates who “crucified” him on a makeshift cross, a court has heard today.
The 19-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told a jury how workmates had left him “ashamed and distraught” by their alleged bullying during a 10-month period while he worked an apprentice for a firm of shop fitters.
The teenager was giving evidence via video link at York Crown Court, where four of his former workmates face charges of religious harassment and assault.
It is alleged that a deodorant can was used as a makeshift flame-thrower while the teenager hid under a duvet in a flat the workers were staying in.
While on another job it is alleged that he had crosses and phallic symbols drawn on his face and body while he was asleep.
On another occasion he claimed he was tied to a chair while working at a bank in York. He was blindfolded and had a dummy taped to his mouth before being carried out into the street, where he was left for several minutes.
The teenager recounted how he had been working at a bank in Hull when he was tied to the cross and suspended three feet off the ground, an incident which was filmed by nearby colleagues.
He told the jury: “I felt ashamed that everyone else was seeing what was happening.
“It wasn’t until later that I thought they were trying to take the mickey out of my religion.”
He said he went to church but never “shouted” about being a Catholic.
One weekend, when his boss wanted him to work and bombarded him with calls, the teenager said he had to send a text saying he was in church.
During another incident when the teenager was accused of forgetting to take a wood filler to a job, he claimed the team’s boss had lifted him up by his underpants, causing pain and bleeding.
The alleged bullying began shortly after joining Selby, North Yorkshire-based Direct Interior Solutions as an apprentice. The court heard he thought what his workmates called pranks were part of being an apprentice until he realised it was only happening to him.
He didn’t complain to the firm because he wanted the job and was in “quite a bit of debt” and eventually told his mother what had been going on before quitting the job.
And he said he did not complain to his workmates because he was scared of them.
The jury was told that what the four defendants had done to the apprentice amounted to religious aggravation and had carried out a “sustained course of victimisation and bullying in the workplace.”
What he endured was “beyond anything that could be described as banter or high jinks in the work place”, the prosecution said.
Referring to the makeshift crucifixion incident, Austin Newman, prosecuting, said: “We say that the cross was indicative of hostility towards the victim based on his religious observance”.
After the police were called in the defendants were interviewed.
Team leader Andrew Addison refused to comment but workers Joseph Rose and the other two, Christopher Jackson and Alex Puchir, claimed it was simply “banter and high jinks” between workmates and had nothing to do with religion.
One even suggested that the teenage was compliant with what had happened.
Addison, 30, from Selby, North Yorks and Rose, from nearby Bubwith, deny putting a person in fear of violence by harassment. Rose, 21, denied religious aggravated assault by beating.
Addison, along with Jackson, 22, from Barlby, near Selby and Puchir, 37, from Edinburgh also deny religious aggravated assault by beating. Addison also denied another charge of assault by beating.
The trial continues.