Internet Racism Pair Lose Appeal

BBC News, January 29, 2010

Two men have lost their appeals against the UK’s first conviction for inciting racial hatred via a foreign website.

Simon Sheppard, 51, was sentenced to four years and 10 months, and Stephen Whittle, 42, to two years and four months at Leeds Crown Court in July.

However, the Court of Appeal has reduced Sheppard’s sentence by one year and Whittle’s jail term by six months.

Sheppard, from Selby, North Yorks, and Whittle, of Preston, Lancs, controlled US websites featuring racist material.

During their first trial in 2008, they skipped bail and fled to California, where they sought asylum claiming they were being persecuted for their right-wing views, but were deported.

The police investigation began after a complaint about a leaflet called “Tales of the Holohoax”, which was pushed through the door of a Blackpool synagogue and traced back to a post office box in Hull registered to Sheppard.

‘Abusive and insulting’

Published material found later included images of murdered Jews alongside cartoons and articles ridiculing ethnic groups.

The pair were charged under the Public Order Act with publishing racially inflammatory material, distributing racially inflammatory material and possessing racially inflammatory material with a view to distribution.

Sheppard, of Brook Street, Selby, was found guilty of 16 offences and Whittle, of Avenham Lane, Preston, was found guilty of five.

Sentencing them, Judge Rodney Grant said he had rarely seen material which was so abusive and insulting.

Sheppard’s counsel Adrian Davies told the Appeal Court the sites were “entirely lawful” in the US.

He said that there was no evidence that anyone in England and Wales–except for the police officer in the case–had ever seen any of them.

Excessive sentences

Giving the Court of Appeal ruling, Lord Justice Scott Baker said the material had been available to the public despite the fact that the evidence went no further than establishing that one police officer downloaded it.

He said the trial judge had been right to hold that he had jurisdiction to try the pair because much of the activities constituting the crime took place in England.

However, although the Appeal Court judges agreed that “this was truly pernicious material”, the sentences handed down had been excessive.

[Editor’s Note: Earlier stories on Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle are listed here.]

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