Leader of Britain First charged over Northern Ireland rally speech

The leader of the far-right Britain First group has been charged over a speech he made in Northern Ireland.

Paul Golding, 35, was arrested by detectives in Belfast today while he was at court supporting deputy leader Jayda Fransen during her appearance on charges related to remarks she made at the same Northern Ireland Against Terrorism rally in the city in August.

Golding has been charged with using threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour and is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates' court on January 10.

Fransen, 31, was re-arrested at the court in Belfast on Thursday.

She was detained minutes after appearing before a district judge accused of behaviour intended or likely to stir up hatred arising from her speech in the summer.

Fransen was re-arrested by detectives for questioning about a suspected offence in the city earlier this week.

She was detained after she featured in a tweet on Wednesday purporting to show her at a wall used to divide Catholic residents from Protestants to prevent violence during the Troubles.

The message said it was shot in the staunchly unionist Shankill area of west Belfast.

During the video post she criticised Islam.

She and Golding were taken from the Laganside court building to a Belfast city centre police station for interview.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland later announced that Golding had been charged.

Britain First has enjoyed added prominence after US president Donald Trump re-tweeted three unrelated anti-Muslim videos posted by Fransen.

Two featured violent scenes, including someone being pushed off a roof and another person being assaulted.

The group has since boasted it received hundreds of new membership applications and said its Facebook posts were reaching hundreds of thousands more users.

Its leaders face separate legal action in England.

Prior to her re-arrest, Fransen, from Anerley in south east London, was before Belfast Magistrates' Court charged with using words which were threatening, abusive or insulting during her speech in August .

Police in court sought curbs on her ability to participate in future rallies in Northern Ireland as well as her social media use.

She took to Twitter within minutes of her release on bail and said it was a "nonsense charge".

"I criticise Islam and now they want to send me to prison for two years," she said.

The court ordered her not to go within 500 metres of any demonstration or parade in Northern Ireland as a condition of her release on bail.

The PSNI officer said she was seeking conditions on the accused's bail because of a planned rally - Free Speech For Jayda - on December 10 in Belfast, which was postponed due to snow.

She added: "We were concerned that there would be further offences."

Fransen's barrister Richard McConkey branded the curbs on her freedom of speech disproportionate and said his client was pleading not guilty.

He accused police of trying to use the court to censor a politician.

"This lady is as entitled to free expression within the law as anyone else.

"If there is an offence she will be arrested like everyone else."

District judge Fiona Bagnall said she was not stopping the accused from speaking, rather preventing her from re-offending.

The court was told most of the evidence involved video footage.

Fransen is on bail facing trial over four unrelated charges of causing religiously aggravated harassment as part of a Kent Police investigation into the distribution of leaflets and the posting of online videos during a trial held at Canterbury Crown Court in May.

She will go on trial at Folkestone Magistrates' Court on January 29 alongside Golding, who faces three similar charges.

Her Belfast case is expected to be mentioned again in the city on January 9.


KEYWORDS: Courts

 

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