Four convicted for National Action membership
Four people have been convicted today (19 March) of being members of the banned extreme right wing neo-Nazi group National Action.
A jury at Birmingham Crown Court took less than nine hours to find three men and a woman guilty after a previous trial resulted in a hung jury in June last year. One other man had admitted membership of the group before the first trial.
The second nine-week trial is the culmination of a two year investigation into right wing terrorism which has already seen eight people imprisoned for National Action membership as well as other offences.
National Action was formed in 2013 and in December 2016 became the first organisation to be banned by the government since World War II.
Alice Cutter, aged 22, and her partner 24-year-old Mark Jones, both from Wharf Street, Sowerby Bridge, Halifax; Garry Jack, aged 23 from Heathland Avenue, Shard End, Birmingham; Connor Scothern, aged 18 from Bagnall Avenue, Arnold, Nottingham, and Daniel Ward, aged 28 from Highmore Drive, Bartley Green, Birmingham, were arrested on 5 September 2017 and charged with being members of National Action contrary to section 11 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
Ward pleaded guilty at a previous court hearing and was jailed for three years on 19 July last year.
The jury heard how the group became members of National Action pre-proscription and regularly met to share their extreme ideology and attend demonstrations, however when the group was banned, the defendants continued to communicate covertly using encrypted messaging platforms. They held secret meetings to discuss their ambitions for a race war whilst recruiting other young people to the group, sharing intensely shocking images mocking the holocaust and glorifying Hitler.
Central to the group, Cutter and Jones, amassed an arsenal of weapons and were obsessed with ‘violent ethnic cleansing’. They had met after Cutter entered a Miss Hitler beauty contest as ‘Buchenwald Princess’, named after the German prison camp where thousands of Jews were killed during WWII.
The group was part of the Midland Chapter of National Action which saw a serving British lance corporal - Mikko Vehvilainen - and Alex Deakin jailed for eight years in April 2018 for belonging to the group and distributing extremist publications. Two months later Deakin along with two others* were given prison sentences for their activities, including posting stickers at Aston University with the intention of inciting racial hatred. Garry Jack was among that group and received a suspended sentence.
And in December 2018, a further five people were jailed for belonging to National Action along with other offences including possessing bomb-making instructions.
After today’s conviction Head of West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit (WMCTU), Detective Chief Superintendent Kenny Bell said: “National Action is an extreme right wing neo-Nazi group. Their ambition is to prepare for a race war by amassing weapons and trying to recruit others by the spread of their extreme ideology. Being convicted of membership of this extreme right terrorist group is the same as belonging to other terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda or Daesh.
“They share a real toxic extreme ideology which is a danger to the public, the same ideology that we have seen manifested in the tragic attack in New Zealand, the murder of Jo Cox MP and the attack at Finsbury Park mosque in 2017.
“This group was amassing weapons and recipes for bomb-making. They communicated through secret channels to recruit others to their cause. Left unchecked they presented a real threat to the public."
Det Chief Supt Bell continued: “We have seen a significant increase of right-wing referrals to our Prevent programme and we will investigate the threat as robustly as we would any other terrorist group, as well as training our officers on the signs to look out for and working with communities to increase awareness.
“Terrorists and extremists use this kind of ideology to create discord, distrust and fear among our communities and we strive to counter this. I would encourage people to report hate crime to us and it will be taken seriously."
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