Jury told police faced criticism after rape allegation as trial of Sunderland protester Billy Charlton continues

Members of the public were critical of the police and produced a 100,000-signature petition after a rape accusation resulted in no charges, jurors haveheard.

Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 3:24 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 4:03 pm
Billy Charlton pictured outside Newcastle Crown Court

William Charlton is on trial accused of stirring up racial hatred during a series of speeches at marches organised after a woman claimed she had been attacked by Turkish men in Sunderland.

The 55-year-old has said his intention was to "protect the women of Sunderland from rape and sexual violence" when he spoke at the planned demonstrations in the city.

But prosecutor Sharon Beattie has told Newcastle Crown Court the protection of women was an "excuse" by Charlton, to hide his true intention "under a cloak of respectability".

Miss Beattie told jurors: "His true intentions, say the prosecution, were to stir people up against Muslims, Asians, black people and the police."

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Charlton of no fixed address, denies five charges of stirring up racial hatred between November 2016 and July 2017 and is being tried by a jury.

Jurors have now watched video footage of a march on September 10 2016, which was attended by men, women and children.

Charlton, who spoke at the gathering, told the crowd: "This is about rapists. If it was white men I would be on the streets as well.

"Unfortunately, it's imported rapists that I'm standing here talking about, imported."

He told the crowd, who cheered and chanted, that the police were doing nothing about it.

Police Inpsector Scott Berry, who attended the march, said "many people in the group were intent on causing disorder" during the march.

He added: "They were keen to shout, in a confrontational manner, towards me, other police officers and make comments regards to refugees and similar."

Glenn Gatland, defending, told the court Charlton is registered disabled, with a blue badge, has severe arthritis in his legs and was at the back of the march.

Mr Gatland said there was no suggestion Charlton had been involved in any physical or verbal confrontation with any police officer or anyone else that day.

The court heard Charlton had asked the crown to "disperse peacefully" at the end of his speech.

Mr Gatland asked the officer if he was aware of a "a petition, signed by over 100,000 people in Sunderland, presented to the police".

The Inspector said he was aware of the petition but not the number of signatories to it.

Mr Gatland told the court there was "dissension between the police and local community" over the fact nobody was prosecuted over the alleged attack on the woman who made the complaint.

Mr Gatland asked the inspector: "There were many people who appeared to be critical of Northumbria Police and what happened about the prosecution?"

The inspector replied: "Yes."

Charlton denies all charges .

The trial continues.