Britain First deputy leader convicted of hate speech in Belfast
Jayda Fransen’s speech was ‘intended to stir up hatred and arouse fear’
A former deputy leader of far-right group Britain First has been convicted of stirring up hatred towards Muslims in Northern Ireland.
Britain First leader Paul Golding (37), and two other English men, John Banks and Paul Rimmer, were all acquitted on similar charges.
Convicting Fransen, of Moat Avenue in Donaghadee, Co Down, District Judge George Conner said her public expressions amounted to “a general, vehement attack against a religious group”. She was told to return to Belfast Magistrates’ Court for sentencing in May.
All four defendants were on trial over their addresses to the Northern Ireland Against Terrorism event in August 2017. They were accused of using threatening, abusive or insulting words intended to stir up hatred or arouse fear.
Demonstrators had gathered on the same day as a republican march to mark the introduction of internment without trial by the British army at the height of the Troubles in 1971. During the trial defence lawyers argued each of the accused were entitled to freedom of expression — no matter how offensive their speeches may be.
The court heard Fransen told those gathered there was no moderate version of Islam, and stated: “These people are baying for our blood.”
Claiming the religion represented the biggest threat to civilisation, she went on: “Islam says every single one of you wonderful people here today deserves to be killed.”
Those attending the rally were then told it was time for the world to come together against “the one common enemy”.
Judge Conner ruled: “I’m satisfied these words were intended to stir up hatred and arouse fear.”
He also found her guilty over a separate, filmed incident at a Belfast peace wall in December 2017. On that occasion, the court heard, Fransen declared that the “Islamification” of Britain will lead to similar walls to separate the two sides. She claimed the country was “descending into civil war” and said it was time to “rise up against the biggest threat against the entire world”.
Confirming a conviction for that episode, the judge said: “I’m satisfied the words were menacing in nature.”
Mr Golding, of Beeches Close in Anerley, London, allegedly referred to a mosque in Newtownards as part of his claims about Islam’s colonisation.
In his speech he said: “We have got a problem with one religion and one religion only, that is Islam.”
Mr Rimmer, of Modred Street in Liverpool, allegedly told the crowd Muslims were colonising and taking over British cities. The 56-year-old, who once stood for mayor in his native city, was said to have warned about “a wolf coming down the track”.
He claimed, however, that he spoke about love and friendship.
Dismissing the case against Mr Golding, Mr Rimmer and 61-year-old Mr Banks, of Acacia Road in Doncaster, south Yorkshire, the judge said some of their speeches were “ugly” but had not crossed the line into being illegal.
As the three men left the dock supporters in the public gallery applauded and shouted: “Go on.”