Billy Charlton trial: Asian man attacked in Sunderland after race-hate speech 'whipped up' protesters, jury told

Billy Charlton speaking in Sunderland
Billy Charlton speaking in Sunderland

An Asian man was attacked after a race-hate speech "whipped up" marchers at a protest event, a court heard.

Protesters had taken to the streets of Sunderland after a woman said she had been attacked by foreign men at a flat in the city in 2016.

Billy Charlton pictured outside of Newcastle Crown Court

Billy Charlton pictured outside of Newcastle Crown Court

Newcastle Crown Court some of the marchers who turned up at the protest event in September that year turned on police and shouted hate-filled abuse.

After the protest, trouble broke out in the streets and police were branded "rapists", jurors have heard.

A police sergeant who was at the protest said a speech by "organiser" William Charlton had "whipped up" the crowd that day.

Charlton - known as Billy - who has spoken alongside Tommy Robinson at another public event, is accused of six offences of stirring up racial hatred.

The 53-year-old, of Earl Street, Seaham, denies the charges and is being tried by a jury.

A police sergeant has told jurors Charlton was the organiser of a march on September 10, 2016, and that it had been agreed that the initial route, which would include Peel Street, where the alleged attack on the woman took place, would be changed.

The officer said protesters met at the Ivy Leaf social club that afternoon and that the family-friendly atmosphere changed, not long after they set off.

He said: "The nature of the march changed very quickly once we progressed past the Ivy Leaf Club and males came out of the bar who pushed themselves to the front of the march, where initially it had been just females, in the majority.

"The concern was, they had been in the bar, had scarves around their faces and hoods up."

The officer said the protest, which had grown to large numbers, started heading towards Peel Street, despite the agreement that the area would be avoided.

He told the court he tried to direct the crowd away from Peel Street but added: "They were basically telling me to **** off, they would go where they want and do what they want."

The officer said when he approached Charlton and asked for the crowd to be re-directed, Charlton told him "it's nowt to do with me, I'm not the organiser".

The police sergeant said as the crowd went into Peel Street they were "vociferous, shouting at police officers".

The court heard a police line was formed half way up Peel Street to keep the crowd back and officers were accused of protecting asylum seekers rather than woman and called "rapists".

The officer said speeches took place at a grassed area.

He said an initial speaker, who was not named, spoke in a "racist tone".

The officer said Charlton then did his speech, which also had a "racist element".

He added: "It got the crowd whipped up, becoming more vociferous, basically shouting 'what would you do if it was your bairn', calling us rapists, not nice. "

The officer said when the speeches ended, the crowd started to disperse but there was not enough officers to carry out a controlled dispersal.

He said a message then came through on his police radio about an assault at the rear of Peel Street.

The officer told jurors: "I saw an Asian male, in his 50s, had a lot of blood coming from his head, getting first aid, with bandages on his head.

"By the time I was present, there was a few other police officers there, having to hold back a number of white males from further attacking a group of Asian males that were there, who I believe had come out of the back yard to protect the male who was assaulted."

The officer added: "There was a lot of young, white males present. In response to that, a lot of Bangladeshi community, young males, had come to the area where the assaults had taken place. We were having to keep those parties apart."

When asked by prosecutor Sharon Beattie about the effect of the speeches on the crowd that day, the officer said: "As the speech progressed, the crowd were acting more vociferous, shouting out, giving us more abuse in response to what Mr Charlton was shouting and telling them.

"It was not a nice experience, people shouting 'what would you do if your daughter was raped', calling us rapists, calling fellow officers rapists.

"That was directly as a result of Mr Charlton's speech."

Nick Lane, defending, said Charlton had told the crown to "disperse peacefully" after the speech and had advised the marchers beforehand about the route change.

Mr Lane said the march had been organised by supporters of the woman who said she was attacked.

Charlton told police in interview he has "no control over other people's actions."

He denies all charges.

The trial continues.