Friday, July 10, 2009

Landmark ruling as internet race-hate fugitives locked up

TWO men have been jailed for publishing inflammatory race hate articles on the internet in a case that has been hailed as a landmark.
Simon Sheppard had argued that because his website used a server registered in the USA it was beyond the reach of English law but a judge disagreed and yesterday, after two trials, he finally sentenced Sheppard and Stephen Whittle, the author of five articles on the site.

Judge Rodney Grant told the pair at Leeds Crown Court their actions were unpleasant and very serious. He said: "I can say without any hesitation that I have rarely seen, or had to read or consider, material which was so abusive or insulting in its content towards racial groups within our own country and society."

The website featured extreme views and grotesque images of murdered Jews alongside cartoons and posters ridiculing ethnic groups, while Whittle's articles were "full of hatred".

The judge said Sheppard's counsel argued he had set up the website that way because he did not see himself as breaking British law. "I am satisfied having heard you give evidence and considered the submissions made you thought by using a server in the US you had found a way to circumvent English law."

Sheppard, 52, of Brook Street, Selby, was jailed for four years and six months on 16 charges relating to the possession, publication and distribution of material which could stir up racial hatred either on the internet or in hard copy.

He was previously convicted nine years ago at Hull Crown Court of publishing and distributing inflammatory material.

York University graduate Whittle, 42, of Avenham Lane, Preston, who was found guilty of five offences of publishing inflammatory material, was jailed for two years.

Both men were also sentenced to a further four months consecutive for breaching bail when they fled to the USA in July last year towards the close of the first trial. They spent 11 months in custody in California but failed to secure political asylum and were returned last month.

After the sentencing Adil Khan, head of diversity and community cohesion at Humberside Police, said: "This case is groundbreaking. The sentences reflect the gravity of the offences and send a very clear message there is nowhere to hide for people who do this."

Jonathan Sandiford, prosecuting, told the jury the men held extreme far right views "about people who were Jewish, black, Asian, Chinese, Indian and in reality anyone who wasn't white".

He said an investigation began in 2004 after a pamphlet Tales of the Holohoax, treating the subject as humorous, were pushed through the letterbox of a Blackpool synagogue and sent to a Jewish academic in London.

Copies of the leaflet were seized from Sheppard's then home in Market Weighton along with details of his website offering to supply it and other material through a post office box in Hull registered to him.

The website featured material including descriptions of Auschwitz as a holiday camp for Jews provided by the Nazis while articles written by Whittle described black people as "sex-crazed blood-thirsty savages".

Adrian Davies for Sheppard, who has a degree in mathematics, said he had a troubled childhood leading to a problem with authority, particularly the police. He considered his activities lawful with much of the information widely available.

Linda Turnbull for Whittle said he now appreciated his articles were "nasty and unacceptable".