Billy Charlton jailed for 21 months for stirring up racial hatred during Sunderland marches

A hate speaker screamed at jurors "I hope your daughters don't get raped" as he was jailed for 21 months over a series of racist public protests.
Billy CharltonBilly Charlton
Billy Charlton

William Charlton, known as Billy, claimed his intention was to "protect the women of Sunderland from rape and sexual violence" when he spoke at planned demonstrations in Sunderland.

The marches, where Charlton spoke about "imported rapists" and equated "immigrants with rapists" were part of a campaign which was started after a woman told police she had been attacked by six foreign men in the city.

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After the first two speeches, Charlton had a meeting with a police superintendent who advised him that the complaint made by the woman had been thoroughly investigated but had not produced evidence to lead to charges.

Following a three-and-a-half-week trial jurors agreed his words had "gone beyond" freedom of speech and he was convicted of five offences of stirring up racial hatred at five marches between September 2016 and July 2017.

Judge Edward Bindloss told the 55-year-old: "You are an intelligent, articulate, skilled public speaker but also a manipulator and bully, in my judgement."

Charlton, who was pictured celebrating the referendum result in Sunderland the night the nation voted to quit the EU, shouted at jurors who had returned to watch the sentence as he was led away to start his jail term and told them: "I hope your daughters don't get raped."

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Judge Bindloss said Charlton had propelled the campaign about justice for the woman with "rhetoric and misrepresentations" and that jurors found an "agenda of racist hatred".

The judge told Charlton: "It was a pernicious form of racial hatred, treating a section of the community as the same."

Judge Bindloss added: "Freedom of speech is a fundamental freedom of our society.

"This is not a case about politics but a case about law. I have sought to keep the law and politics separate.

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"You are not on trial for your political views or being a member of any party or for being associated with anyone or even your anti-immigration views, your are entitled to hold them.

"This is a trial about racial hatred. The jury has found your speeches were intended or likely to stir up racial hatred."

Judge Bindloss said Charlton's speeches contributed to a "toxic atmosphere in Sunderland" at the time, when racist graffiti and damage being reported and that his views reached "around the world" thanks to social media.

The judge said Charlton's "highly critical" comments about Northumbria Police, combined with his "misrepresented facts" about the alleged attack, undermined public confidence in them and reduced the likelihood of victims coming forward, therefore leaving women more exposed to dangers.

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Glenn Gatland, defending, said Charlton's mistake was he went "too far, far too far about immigration and making the comments he made".

Mr Gatland said Charlton had a genuine belief that victims were being let down and added: "He is a person with genuinely held concerns, concerns about his local community but then he goes too far."

The court heard no violence erupted after any of the speeches which Charlton was convicted of and he had asked crowds to disperse peacefully.

Mr Gatland said Charlton has an elderly mother who he is extremely concerned about and has health problems himself.

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Jurors heard during the trial the speeches were streamed on Facebook and picked up by Rebel Media, which was linked to Tommy Robinson.

Prosecutor Sharon Beattie told jurors during the trial Charlton "hid his true intention under a cloak of respectability" .

She added: "His true intentions, say the prosecution, were to stir people up against Muslims, Asians, black people and the police."

Miss Beattie said the marches caused "considerable disruption" in Sunderland and were "aggressive and confrontational" in nature.

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She added: "Mr Charlton wasn't genuinely motivated by concern about these women. He was motivated by an agenda and that agenda related to immigrants, he was stirring up racial hatred.

"His attacks on the police were designed to tell people the police couldn't protect them so they had to protect themselves."

Charlton, of no fixed address, has now been tried by two juries.

At the first trial, last year, Charlton was cleared of a similar charge, relating to a march in September 2016.

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During the demonstrations, Charlton, who addressed the crowd, said the council had "imported rapists" and that the police were "useless".

Mr Beattie said during the talks, Charlton "equates immigrants with rapists and wants the audience to do the same" and made no mention about the fact around 85 per cent of accused of sexual offences in the area were white.

The court heard Charlton appeared at a protest on June 10, 2017, along with Tommy Robinson.

During the talk, Charlton said: "This will never be Rotherham, it will never be Rochdale, this is Sunderland."

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The city centre crowd clapped and cheered and chanted their demands for "justice".

Charlton branded David Cameron a "spineless b*****" for his immigration policies.

He also told the crowd: "It'a about those people they're allowing in. We don't put people in our communities that are going to attack our children."

He added: "This is about us, about our city and our town, this is ours, ours.

"I am proud to be a Mackem, proud to be from Sunderland."

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Charlton spoke about some people being punished, while others get "safehouses".

The court heard a woman had to be escorted away from the protest for carrying a placard that said "rape does not have a race".

Miss Beattie said the woman was then called an "idiot" by Charlton.

In a media interview later that day, Charlton said the "vast majority were migrant" when asked who was committing rapes in the city and claimed he "could not remember one rape in Sunderland committed by a local".

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The court heard Charlton was "aggressive and argumentative" after he was arrested and questioned by the police and did not really answer questions put to him but "he did deny being racist".

One police officer said she was "flabbergasted" by Charlton's aggressive manner during questioning.

Miss Beattie said before the marches in Sunderland, Charlton had attended the White Man March in Newcastle, which was supported by the far right and was "anti Muslim, anti Islam".

He also spoke at a "Protect our Borders" protest in Dover and Miss Beattie said he gave a speech in South Shields about people going to Mosques and 'saying they should go into the Mosques and sort them out'.