Web racists to appeal 'unsafe' sentence

By James Brewster, July 15, 2009
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The front page of the pamphlet which was pushed through a shul door

The front page of the pamphlet which was pushed through a shul door

Two race hate criminals who, in a bid to win political asylum in the USA, fled the country after being convicted, have both won the first round of a legal battle to clear their names.

Simon Sheppard, 52, and Stephen Whittle, 43, were the first Britons to be convicted of inciting racial hatred online.

They were found guilty last year, but fled to the US before they could be sentenced and attempted to use America's free speech laws to stay there.

They claimed they were being persecuted by the UK Government for material published on the website heretical.com, London's Criminal Appeal Court heard today.

However, they were eventually extradited back to Britain and jailed. Sheppard was sentenced to four years and ten months behind bars, while Whittle received two years and four months in July this year at Leeds Crown Court.

Whittle, of Avenham Lane, Preston, and Sheppard, of Brook Street, Selby, had both been convicted of a number of counts of publishing racially inflammatory material in July 2008.

Sheppard was also convicted in his absence of further counts of distributing and possessing racist material in January this year.

Today at the Appeal Court, top judge, Lord Justice Richards, gave the pair permission to appeal their convictions, after hearing argument from both their legal teams.

It was the Crown's case at trial that the pair worked together, Whittle composing articles and Sheppard editing them and posting them online.

Many of their articles targeted Jewish people, and a pamphlet entitled "Tales of the Holohoax" was also produced.

"The pamphlet suggested Jews had a history of inventing stories and portrayed the Jews in a way that made it likely that racial hatred would be stirred up against them," said Lord Justice Richards.

However, ruling that both men's convictions were "arguably" unsafe, the judge concluded: "We are persuaded that there is sufficient merit in the points raised to merit consideration by the full court."

No date was set for the full hearing of the appeals.

Last updated: 2:07pm, July 15 2009