Dowager gets suspended sentence for racist leaflet: Booklet claims Holocaust did not happen

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The Independent Online
THE DOWAGER Lady Birdwood, 80, was given a three-month prison sentence suspended for two years yesterday by an Old Bailey judge for possessing and distributing a booklet likely to stir up racial hatred. She was warned that there was a very serious risk of the sentence being activated if she offended again.

Birdwood was also fined pounds 500 for breaching a conditional discharge order, imposed in 1991, for similiar offences.

Last month, Birdwood was remanded on bail after being convicted of distributing The Longest Hatred, a booklet claiming that the Holocaust was a lie and that there was a Jewish conspiracy to undermine society through control of financial institutions. The jury concluded that she did not deliberately set out to stir up racial hatred.

Judge Henry Pownall QC warned Birdwood, who was present in court, that she faced a 'very serious' risk of being imprisoned if she offended again. He also ordered that she should forfeit all 153 copies of the booklet and pay pounds 500 towards the prosecution's costs. He warned that failure to pay the fine would result in 30 days imprisonment.

Birdwood had sent the booklet to MPs, MEPs and other prominent public figures in 1992, despite a police warning that she risked prosecution. She had also breached a 1991 two-year conditional discharge for distributing anti-Semitic literature likely to stir up racial hatred.

Judge Pownall said she also appeared to be unwilling to be tied down by the race relations acts.

Douglas Christie, for the defence, argued that people should not be imprisoned for expressing sincerely held beliefs. 'If people are free to differ,' he said 'they should be free to differ on matters which really matter.'

Judge Pownall concluded: 'It was obvious to us all that your views are honestly and sincerely held and nobody, least of all this court, is going to deny your right to freedom of speech, nor your right to put your views and other people's similar views into writing, even forcefully. But it is your responsibility to use your freedom within the law. You are eminently capable of doing that if you wish, in a way which is neither abusive or insulting.'

He added: 'I accept you did not intend to stir up racial hatred. So you are not a wicked old woman in that sense, but I think that you do live in a different world from the one that most of us are in.'

After the sentence Birdwood, of Acton, west London, said she would not be deterred from publishing similar material in future. 'It is very difficult. I think I have to, because if I don't there will be a bloodbath in this country. I don't hate anyone. I simply say the situation is impossible. You can't have 15 million extra people here with some 70 different languages and customs and several important faiths all juggling, trying to get a hearing. You can't do it in such an overcrowded country.'

(Photograph omitted)

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