Pair jailed for race-hate crimes

Two men were jailed today for inciting racial hatred online.

Simon Sheppard, 52, was sentenced to four years and 10 months while Stephen Whittle, 42, was given a term of two years and four months after being convicted of a number of race-hate crimes.

Leeds Crown Court was told that Whittle wrote offensive articles which were then published on the internet by Sheppard.

The published material included grotesque images of murdered Jews alongside cartoons and articles ridiculing ethnic groups.

Their right-wing output was based on the writings of other extremists like American Nazi George Lincoln Rockwell.

Judge Rodney Grant told the pair their material was "abusive and insulting" and had the potential to cause "grave social harm".

Judge Grant said the offences were "unpleasant and very serious".

He added: "Such offences as these have, by their very nature, the potential to cause grave social harm, particularly in a society such as ours which has, for a number of years now, been multi-racial.

"These are serious offences. I can say without any hesitation that I have rarely seen, or had to read or consider, material which is so abusive and insulting ... towards racial groups within our own society."

The pair were convicted of a number of race-hate crimes which involved the possession, publication and distribution of racially inflammatory material.

They were convicted at Leeds Crown Court following two lengthy trials.

During the first trial in July last year, the pair skipped bail and fled to California, where they sought asylum, claiming they were being persecuted for their right-wing views.

They were deported back to the UK last month.

Today's sentence included a four-month term for skipping bail after the judge said they had "in effect just run away to avoid the consequences of your actions".

The court was told that the investigation into the men began when a complaint about a leaflet called Tales Of The Holohoax was reported to the police in 2004 after it was pushed through the door of a synagogue in Blackpool.

It was traced back to a post office box in Hull, registered to Sheppard.

Police later found a website featuring racially inflammatory material.

Prosecutors said one leaflet found by officers suggested that Auschwitz was a holiday camp for Jews provided by the Nazis.

Prosecuting, Jonathan Sandiford, said: "The general theme of the article was that Auschwitz-Birkenau was in fact a holiday camp provided by the Nazi regime.

"Jews from all over Europe came to enjoy a free holiday. A constant theme was the Jewish people had made up the story of the Holocaust as a slur on the German people."

Referring to an article by Whittle, the prosecutor added: "He returned to what appears to be a favourite theme: the notion that black people are not as equal as whites. They are sex-crazed, blood-thirsty savages.

"Black people were caricatured as uncivilised primitive savages portrayed as nothing more than murderers and rapists."

Sheppard, who has a previous race-hate conviction, of Brook Street, Selby, North Yorkshire, was found guilty of 16 offences and Whittle, of Avenham Lane, Preston, Lancashire, was found guilty of five offences.

The defendants' trials raised questions over the limits of free speech in the UK, as the pair claimed they should be acquitted because the articles were posted on a server registered in the US, beyond the reach of UK law.

Mitigating, Adrian Davidson, for Sheppard, said his client came from a "very troubled background" and revealed that his mother had committed suicide.

He said he had problems with authority, and in particular the police.

He said that, despite his troubled past, he was an intelligent man who had managed to obtain a degree in maths.

His client believed he was involved in a lawful activity as the articles were published on a US server, he told the court.

The barrister said much of the information was still widely accessible on other sites.

Linda Turnbull, for Whittle, said her client was shocked at the nature of the articles he had written. "They are nasty and unacceptable," she told the court.

She said her client had no intention of re-offending in the future.

Adil Khan, head of diversity and community cohesion at Humberside Police, said: "This case is groundbreaking.

"Previously material published on the internet has been argued to have been published by internet servers located outside the UK.

"In this case the publication was judged to have occurred when Sheppard and Whittle themselves uploaded the information.

"This has been a very long journey - one which has been complex and complicated.

"It has involved Humberside Police along with our colleagues from other forces.

"Inciting racial hatred is a crime and one which seems to occur too regularly. This kind of material will not be tolerated as this lengthy investigation shows.

"The sentence today reflects the seriousness of the offences.

"We are very proud of our officers and the people who gave evidence. We would like to praise the strength of the victims throughout this lengthy process.

"Sheppard and Whittle took measures to avoid the inevitable by absconding to America. They have now been returned to this country to face justice.

"Anyone who has been affected by the trial or the material is urged to contact Humberside Police Diversity Unit on 0845 60 60 222.

"Anyone who receives copies of such material or who comes across any on the internet they are advised to contact police either by telephone or by visiting a neighbourhood policing team."

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