Internet racists are jailed

Two racists have become the first in Britain to be jailed for inciting racial hatred on the internet.

Simon Sheppard, 51, from Selby in north Yorkshire, was sent to prison at Leeds Crown Court for four years and 10 months, while 42-year-old Stephen Whittle, of Preston was sentenced to two years and four months.

The pair fled to America and sought political asylum last year while the jury were returning verdicts during a trial at Leeds Crown Court. But their plea was thrown out by a judge in California and they were sent back to Britain last month.

The men were charged with publishing and distributing racially inflammatory material, and possessing racially inflammatory material with a view to distribution.

Sheppard was convicted of a total of 16 offences, 11 at the first trial and five at a second trial at the beginning of this year when he was tried in absentia. Whittle was found guilty of five offences at the first trial.

Sentencing the men, Judge Rodney Grant told them their material was “abusive and insulting” and had the potential to cause “grave social harm”.

He added: “Such offences as these have, by their very nature, the potential to cause grave social harm, particularly in a society such as ours which has, for a number of years now, been multi-racial.

“These are serious offences. I can say without any hesitation that I have rarely seen, or had to read or consider, material which is so abusive and insulting... towards racial groups within our own society.”

Sheppard published a pamphlet called “Tales of the Holohoax” that contained blatantly racist material against Jews and other ethnic minorities. Whittle wrote offensive articles for the pamphlet under the pen name Luke O’Farrell.

The prosecution said Sheppard also controlled websites for which Whittle wrote material.

The investigation into their activities began after they pushed a pamphlet through the door of a synagogue in Blackpool.

Last updated: 5:34pm, July 10 2009