Billy Charlton trial: Sunderland protester who spoke alongside Tommy Robinson accused of stirring up racial hatred, jury told

Billy Charlton pictured speaking in Sunderland city centre
Billy Charlton pictured speaking in Sunderland city centre

A protester who spoke alongside Tommy Robinson last year stirred up racial hatred during a series of public speeches, it is claimed.

William Charlton's protest talks spread hatred against "immigrants, Asians, black people and the police" and caused a rise in a city's racial crime and disorder, jurors have heard.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 53-year-old, who is known to friends and supporters as "Billy", spoke along with Tommy Robinson at one of the organised protest events, where a woman had to be "escorted away for her own safety" for carrying a placard that said "rape does not have a race".

Charlton, of Earl Street, Seaham, denies six offences of stirring up racial hatred and is being tried by a jury.

Prosecutor Sharon Beattie told the court Charlton hid his racist agenda under the "cloak of respectability" that he wanted to protect women and children from attacks by speaking at the protests, in Sunderland.

Miss Beattie told jurors: "He gave a number of speeches. The theme was inevitably the same, on the face of, and that theme was the protection of women from sexual assault.

"This was his cause, his mission, to protect the woman of Sunderland from rape and sexual violence."

But Miss Beattie added: "His true intentions were to set people up against immigrants, Asians, black people and police."

Miss Beattie said Charlton's speeches would contain only the "odd line" about white rapists or attackers and makes no mention about the fact "85 per cent of people suspected or accused of sexual offences in the Sunderland area are white".

She added: "One of the factors of this case is, following on from Mr Charlton's speeches, there was graffiti and damage to property, properties were attacked in which it was believed rapists lived but which, in fact, other people lived in.

"For example, there was violence against an Asian man who lived in the area where the first protest occurred.

"Then, when his nephew came out to help him, the nephew was beaten up as well, by supporters of Mr Charlton."

Miss Beattie said one of the attackers had been a steward at the march, which was allegedly organised by Charlton.

The court heard videos of Charlton's speeches, which got up to 50,000 views, were uploaded onto Facebook and picked up by "rebel media", which was media
"produced by or linked to" Tommy Robinson.

Miss Beattie said the marches started in September 2016 after a woman, who cannot be named, reported that she was "beaten up and locked in" at a bedsit in Sunderland by Turkish attackers.

An initial protest march was organised, allegedly by Charlton for September 2016, where huge numbers turned up and deviated from the route agreed with the police.

The court heard the protest turned "aggressive and confrontational" and abuse was shouted.

Miss Beattie said "small groups were running around, shouting and screaming at the police" and "shouting about refugees".

The court heard in Charlton's speech at the end of the march, he said: "Standing in Sunderland city centre feels like I'm in Bangladesh."

He claimed "nobody is safe on the streets" and claimed refugees "take shelter from us, take benefits from us, take houses from us and they rape children and we want 20,000 more".

Charlton referred to "imported rapists" and added: "It is time to stand up. It is time to stand together and it is time we started looking after each other again.

During the speech Charlton spoke of "rape and sexual assault committed by Asians" and added: "These are our kids, these are our women, we are going to ******** stand up to them".

Miss Beattie added: "It is clear from his speech Mr Charlton equates immigrants with rapists and wants his audience to do the same."

The court heard Charlton mocked the Northumbria Police slogan of "Proud to Protect" at another event and said: "Proud to protect? This means protecting the people who are abusing your children."

Miss Beattie said it was in June last year Charlton "spoke along with" Tommy Robinson.

At that march, Charlton said "get them off our streets" and "get them off our land".

It was at that event a woman protester held a placard saying "rape is not about race".

Miss Beattie added: "Police had to escort her away, for her own safety."

Miss Beattie said jurors would have to consider "free speech" during the case.

Billy Charlton pictured outside of Newcastle Crown Court

Billy Charlton pictured outside of Newcastle Crown Court

But she added: "There is, and there must be, a place for legitimate debate about issues about race, about immigration, no-one disputes that but that is not what this is."

The court heard at an event last July, just a month after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Charlton referred to "cheap cladding" and how it was not responsible for rape or targeting children.

Miss Beattie said it was "arguable" that "something should have been done sooner" about the marches, which were between September 2016 and July last year.

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

He denies all charges.

The trial continues.

Tommy Robinson

Tommy Robinson