Brexiteer jailed for inciting racial hatred

‘I hope your daughters don’t get raped,’ far-right activist shouts at jurors

Billy Charlton, 55, previously led the Sunderland Defence League
Billy Charlton, 55, previously led the Sunderland Defence League

A far-right activist and Brexit supporter has been jailed for inciting racial hatred at a series of marches where he branded immigrants and refugees as rapists.

William “Billy” Charlton spoke alongside Tommy Robinson at one of the Sunderland rallies, which were linked to an attack on two Asian men, vandalism and other hate crimes in the area.

Months before, he had appeared on the front page of The Sun and in media coverage around the world after being photographed celebrating the Brexit referendum result.

Charlton shouted to jurors, “I hope your daughters don’t get raped”, after he was jailed on Friday.

A judge sentenced him to 21 months behind bars for five counts of inciting racial hatred in speeches between November 2016 and July 2017.

Supporters in the public gallery cheered as Charlton was led away, and have started a “justice for Billy campaign”.

The 55-year-old was a leading figure in a series of protests over a Sunderland woman’s claim she was raped by a gang of migrants.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that police had investigated the allegations thoroughly but that no charges were brought.

In a series of angry tirades at rallies, Charlton accused Northumbria Police of failing to protect women and suggested that all immigrants were rapists.

“This is our town – it belongs to us,” he told a crowd of protesters in Sunderland town centre on 10 June 2017.

“These people turn up and are raping our children and we need to hold somebody responsible for it.”

Following David Cameron’s pledge to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees, Charlton said the former prime minister allowed “20,000 rapists” into Britain and shouted: “We don’t care about them. Get them off our kids, get them off our streets, get them off our island.”

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, praised Charlton at the same rally while giving a speech standing next to him, as the crowd shouted “f*** Islam”.

“I wouldn’t have heard of this campaign if it wasn’t for Billy,” he said. “That battle has to be fought through every avenue.”

In another speech in May 2017, Charlton claimed there was an “epidemic” of sex abuse by migrants in Sunderland, telling crowds: “Immigrants are drugging our women, kidnapping, beating them and raping them.”

His tirades were widely streamed on Facebook, YouTube and other platforms, while some were included in videos by Robinson’s former employer Rebel Media.

Fights break out at Tommy Robinson event in Sunderland

Judge Edward Bindloss told Charlton: “You have been revealed as an intelligent, articulate, skilled public speaker, but also a manipulative bully in my judgment.

“You propelled the [justice campaign over the alleged rape] with rhetoric and misrepresentations, and the jury have found an agenda of racist hatred.”

The prosecution said the defendant equated immigrants with rapists and wanted his audience to do the same.

The court heard that Charlton met with a police superintendent who tried to tell him that claims over the woman being raped in Sunderland were not borne out by evidence. The officer said Charlton was “aggressive from the outset” and was set in his views.

Judge Bindloss said Charlton’s criticism of the police, even though he knew they had thoroughly investigated the woman’s claims, reduced the public’s confidence and would deter victims from coming forward.

“You are not on trial for your political views or being a member of any party, or for anti-immigration views – you are entitled to hold them,” he added. “This is a trial about racial hatred. The jury has found your speeches were intended to, or likely to, stir up racial hatred.”

The court heard that during the period when protests were happening, two innocent Asian men were attacked by white men, an Asian family had a brick thrown through their window with a note reading “EDL [English Defence League] forever” and racist graffiti appeared in the area.

Charlton, of Byland Court in Washington, had denied inciting racial hatred or being racist during his three-and-a-half week trial.

Glenn Gatland, defending, said his client had become frustrated by what he saw as police failures in that case. He said Charlton did not incite violence and had urged the watching crowd to leave peacefully.

Charlton’s protests sparked interest by prominent far-right figures, including Britain First’s Paul Golding and former deputy leader Jayda Fransen.

Emails were sent to Robinson’s supporters calling for them to join demonstrations, including one that was screengrabbed by the Finsbury Park terrorist Darren Osborne.

Billy Charlton speaking at a rally in Sunderland in June 2017

Charlton was previously fined for racially aggravated harassment in 2007 and led the Sunderland Defence League group.

In 2015, he spoke at a “white man march” protest in Newcastle that included the neo-Nazi terrorist group National Action.

Northumbria Police said Charlton had attempted to disguise his attacks on ethnic minorities and immigrants under a “cloak of respectability” by claiming to defend women.

Chief Inspector Sam Rennison said his actions were an attempt to fuel “hatred and unrest” Sunderland.

“Freedom of speech is an important element of modern society which we all advocate, but spreading hate and racism is totally unacceptable,” she added.

“Charlton knowingly targeted a number of ethnic groups and immigrants at high-profile marches in the city centre, and in doing so, stirred up hatred.

“He then pushed that personal agenda further by circulating misinformation on social media for his own gain.

“However, today his calculated behaviour and attempts to spread hatred and unrest in our community have been laid bare.

“We must do all we can to stamp out racism and the spreading of hate.”

Additional reporting by PA

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