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National Action: Founders of neo-Nazi terrorist group not prosecuted three years after ban

Exclusive: Co-founder Ben Raymond boasts of ‘getting away with it’ on Twitter after 15 members jailed

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 30 April 2020 13:41 BST
'Miss Hitler' and fellow neo-Nazis convicted of National Action membership

The founders of neo-Nazi terrorist group National Action have not been prosecuted, despite 15 followers being jailed for membership.

Ben Raymond and Alex Davies started the organisation as university students in 2013, recruiting young and vulnerable followers with online propaganda, demonstrations and publicity stunts.

In 2016, it became the first far-right group to be banned under British terror laws, making membership an offence punishable by 10 years imprisonment.

The most recent members to be convicted were a woman who ran in National Action’s “Miss Hitler” pageant and three men who now face lengthy jail terms.

Their trial, and several others, heard evidence naming Raymond and Davies as co-founders and showing them communicating with members after the ban.

But neither man has been charged with an offence and they remain free. They both deny any wrongdoing.

While Davies has gone to ground, Raymond has turned up at court hearings and started a public Twitter account, which he has used to insult the mother of a convicted National Action member.

The woman, who has started the FAE Support group for parents of far-right extremists, told The Independent: “I don’t know why Ben hasn’t been prosecuted, he was featured heavily in my son’s trial and was part of the ‘inner’ chat group that all the leaders were in.

“I just want him to show remorse for setting up National Action in the first place, and for him to admit he played a part in grooming my son and others.”

On 27 March, Raymond declared on Twitter that he “got away with it”, writing: “I can, I will – forever and ever and ever.”

Since setting up an account in September, he has been provocative – commentating on terror cases and interacting with Prevent officials, counterterror police and academics.

During a recent trial at Birmingham Crown Court, Raymond entered the public gallery during prosecution evidence and started sketching a witness, which is against the law.

The stunt, which was not Raymond’s first appearance at a National Action court case, caused uproar among defendants and their families and disrupted the hearing.

When banning National Action, the government called it a “racist, antisemitic and homophobic organisation” that glorified violence and radicalised young people.

One former member, Jack Renshaw, was later jailed for plotting to murder his local MP, while another made a pipe bomb and police have found numerous stashes of knives and weapons.

National Action: Neo-Nazi terrorist couple who named baby ‘Adolf’ jailed

National Action supporter Zack Davies attempted to behead a Sikh man in a Welsh supermarket in 2015.

A total of 15 people have been convicted of membership, after prosecutors proved they continued National Action activities after the ban.

Professor Matthew Feldman, director of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, called Raymond and Davies as the “founders of the most notorious radical right extremist group in British post-war history”.

“We also know they played a significant role in radicalising vulnerable young people, who themselves were engaged in potential terrorist acts,” he told The Independent.

“I imagine there is great public interest in what happens to these two extremists, who think that Britain was on the wrong side of the Second World War and praised Hitler.”

Mr Feldman called for prosecutors to “cut off the head of the snake” after fears a new National Action successor group will emerge after the government banned spin-offs including Scottish Dawn, NS131 and System Resistance Network.

Lengthy trials have heard evidence that both Raymond and Davies maintained contact with the National Action members after the 2016 ban, with Raymond in a chat group called “Inner”.

All other members of the group have been jailed as members of a terrorist organisation.

A 2018 trial at the Old Bailey heard that both Raymond and Davies attended a meeting shortly before the ban where leaders discussed plans for National Action to continue by operating under different names.

According to the evidence heard at that trial, Davies was among the recipients of a resulting email from de-facto leader Christopher Lythgoe that said the group was “just shedding one skin for another”.

Alex Davies, the co-founder of neo-Nazi terrorist group National Action (Hope Not Hate)

On the day of the ban, Raymond allegedly sent a secure message to six now-convicted members saying he was “super excited about working on all the new projects”.

Trials heard evidence of continued contact between Davies, Raymond and National Action members after that date, as well as indications that Davies attended several future meetings in person throughout 2017.

Birmingham Crown Court was told that in January of that year, both Raymond and Davies were part of an encrypted chat group where National Action members discussed the trial of pipe bomb builder Jack Coulson.

Two months later, a regional leader sent ideas for new group names including “Adolf’s top bois” to Raymond.

A 2018 trial of National Action members at the same court heard that one supporter told another that Raymond had designed stickers “for all the ex NA groups” started after the ban.

Raymond, who started his first fascist group in 2009, was also in contact with international neo-Nazi groups through the Iron March forum.

Other forum members founded Atomwaffen Division, a US-based neo-Nazi group that has been linked to several murders.

Davies has previously denied being a member of National Action after the 2016 ban.

When contacted by The Independent, Raymond denied committing any offence or radicalising others.

He said there was no evidence to suggest he had been involved in a proscribed organisation.

Raymond suggested that counter-terrorism police had “wasted over three years and millions of pounds investigating me, and they have consistently failed to satisfy the CPS”. He described himself as “a satirist, counter-extremism expert, and private citizen of good standing”.

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