Months before Ben Raymond was convicted of being a member of the terrorist group National Action, he created a guide to evading prosecution.
The 32-year-old had not been charged with an offence for almost eight years after co-founding the neo-Nazi organisation, and he thought he had got away with it.
Even when it became the first far-right group to be banned under UK terrorism laws in 2016, and more than a dozen members were jailed, Raymond remained free.
But he now faces a lengthy prison sentence after being convicted of remaining a member of National Action after it was proscribed, and possessing terrorist documents.
Raymond denied all charges but refused to give evidence at his trial, instead sitting silently in the dock at Bristol Crown Court while taking notes and sifting through folders of evidence.
Conviction was not the outcome expected by a man who, months earlier, had been so confident in his ability to evade justice that he created an online guide for members of far-right terrorist groups wanting to dodge prosecution.
In a lengthy thread published on Twitter in January, Raymond offered advice based on his own experience “as a survivor”.
It told people to distance themselves from the organisation, assume everything is “being recorded at all times”, leave chat groups, delete documents and stop in-person meetings.
“Follow the above steps as I did,” Raymond urged readers. “Everything is happening naturally and going according to plan.”
Just over three months later, he was charged with membership of a banned terrorist group and possessing material useful to a terrorist.
The development would have been a shock to Raymond, who had been arrested previously but released without charge – even as 16 fellow National Action fanatics were jailed for continued membership of the group or successor organisations formed after the ban.
The passage of time bred a sense of impunity, and Raymond’s confidence that he had beaten “the system” grew.
And so he started flaunting his freedom. Raymond began openly attending National Action terror trials, sitting in full view of counter-terror police, lawyers, the defendants and their enraged relatives.
He was only removed once, from a hearing at Birmingham Crown Court, after he started sketching an expert witness who was giving evidence on neo-Nazi ideology.
The mother of one of the convicted National Action members told The Independent Raymond had “groomed” her son and many others, and that it was an “insult when he turned up in court”.
Ahead of at least one of the trials, he managed to give National Action activists another guide he had written on how to defend themselves.
All four defendants, who had been arrested for posting racist National Action stickers that Raymond designed, were convicted despite his tips.
The six-page document declared that it was “prepared as evidence or criminal defence” and ordered readers to “absorb the arguments”, before signing off with: “Good luck famalam.”
Raymond wrote a series of hypothetical questions from prosecutors, followed by suggested answers claiming that National Action’s propaganda was “satire” and its calls for “white jihad” were not violent.
He included an essay he had penned in 2015 on the “necessity of white jihad” saying that “National Socialists should be dominating the battle for hearts and minds”, while quoting Adolf Hitler and Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
“We are carrying out a holy struggle to give the white European race its soul back, and to get justice for our people,” Raymond wrote. “Our flag is black and our motto is ‘long live death’, because only those who are willing to die for their beliefs are truly alive.”
In September 2019, he opened up a Twitter account in his own name, where he taunted opponents by labelling himself a “far-right extremism expert” and “pacifist”.
He followed senior counterterror police officers, journalists and counter-extremism groups, and had combative exchanges while commenting on terror cases.
Responding to an article questioning his continued liberty by Hope Not Hate in March 2020, Raymond tweeted: “‘He can’t keep getting away with it!’ I am, I can, I will – forever and ever.”
In a message responding to a request for comment from The Independent that month, Raymond claimed that counterterror police had “wasted over three years and millions of pounds investigating me”, and said it would be an “eminently false and legally actionable claim” to suggest he should be prosecuted for involvement in National Action after the ban.
“This is a common sense cease and desist, but hey it’s your funeral,” he wrote. No legal action was forthcoming.
In November 2020, The Independent exposed Raymond as the proprietor of an online business selling neo-Nazi T-shirts and posters, which has since been taken down.
A post on the retailer’s Twitter account said its mission was “esoteric [mystical Nazism] design with professional style”.
“This ensures products that can be comfortably displayed on any occasion,” it added.
An expert said Raymond’s designs, which included references to occult Nazism, would be readable to an “online world” of white nationalists familiar with the symbolic meanings behind them but not “immediately obvious” to non-Nazis.
The website was not referenced during his trial at Bristol Crown Court, where the jury was told that Raymond denied all charges but admitted being a continued “National Socialist”.
Prosecutors believe he may have “latched onto” the wording of one of the laws he was charged under in an effort to defend himself during police interviews, when he suggested that he may have a journalistic or academic reason to possess terrorist documents.
While admitting creating propaganda for several of National Action’s successor groups, which were created under different names to evade the 2016 ban and later proscribed individually, Raymond claimed he was unaware that they were linked to the organisation at the time.
Summarising the prosecution’s evidence to the jury, Judge Parker QC called the defendant a “puppet master” who worked mainly off-stage after the ban, “pulling the strings and promoting the cause without himself personally attending so many of their rallies and meetings”.
Prosecutor Barnaby Jameson QC described him as an “international neo-Nazi terrorist”, who had become an ambassador for National Action to groups abroad including Atomwaffen Division in the US, and Skydas in eastern Europe.
“He was careful not to stockpile weapons or carry out physical attacks himself,” he told the jury. “He fought his holy war with words and images. He was, like Joseph Goebbels of the original cabal of Nazis, the natural head of propaganda.”
Mr Jameson said Raymond “was leading his fellow fanatics down the path of race war, to dismantle democracy and bring about a world an entire generation fought to defeat, a world whose horrors this defendant seeks to bring on us all.”