Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Anger as BNP chief walks free over race attack

THE ORGANISER of the British National Party, Richard Edmonds, yesterday received a three- month prison sentence for his part in a 'cowardly' attack that left a black man scarred for life.

But Edmonds walked free from Southwark Crown Court because of the time he had already spent in custody awaiting trial.

Supporters of the Anti-Nazi League staged a noisy demonstration outside the court, insisting Edmonds should have been punished more severely.

Edmonds, 50, was largely credited for steering the BNP's Derek Beackon to his Tower Hamlets council by-election win last year.

The court had heard that days after that victory, Edmonds hurled a glass at Steven Browne outside the Ship pub in Bethnal Green, east London. Others then 'glassed' Mr Browne in the face and punched and kicked him as he lay on the ground.

Edmonds, who lives above the heavily-fortified BNP bookshop in Upper Wickham Lane, Welling, south-east London, was convicted earlier this month of one offence of violent disorder.

Just before Edmonds was dealt with, a BNP supporter, Stephen O'Shea, 38, of Hill House, Purfleet, Essex, was jailed for 12 months for his part in the attack.

Judge Christopher Hardy told the unemployed plasterer that Mr Browne and his white girlfriend, Jenny Bone, were outnumbered by as many as 20 to one that day. O'Shea, who was also convicted of violent disorder, waded in after another man smashed a beer glass into Mr Browne's face.

Mr Beackon was inside the pub as Mr Browne and Ms Bone were having racial abuse and beer hurled at them and being spat on.

The attack came against a background of earlier clashes involving Asians and left- and right-wing extremists in nearby Brick Lane.

At the end of the trial, a BNP supporter, Simon Biggs, 28, from Penge, south-east London, who smashed the beer glass into Mr Browne's face causing deep wounds, was jailed for four and a half years.

An ANL spokesman, Rahul Patel, said it was 'disgusting' that Edmonds should be allowed to walk free immediately. 'It is an appallingly light sentence . . . he is the main instigator behind the violence that the BNP perpetrates. He should have gone down for a long time.'