Tyne & Wear

Sunderland protester William Charlton guilty of racial hatred charges

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Media captionWilliam Charlton argues with police during an arrest interview

A man, who a court heard described immigrants as "monsters", has been convicted of stirring up racial hatred.

William Charlton had denied five charges related to speeches at a series of rallies he set up in Sunderland in 2016 and 2017.

The 55-year-old, from Washington, told Newcastle Crown Court he organised them because "the country is in a mess".

After a trial lasting three weeks, a jury found him guilty on all five counts. He will be sentenced on Friday.

Charlton, of Byland Court, had claimed he set up the rallies in response to a reported attack on a woman in the city.

Prosecutor Sharon Beattie said after one of them two Asian men were attacked outside their home.

'Motivated and responding'

She said his intention was "to stir people up against Muslims, Asians, black people and the police".

Charlton had claimed his comments were aimed at criminals rather than immigrants and he was "trying to raise awareness in our local community of what was going on".

Excerpts from his speeches, which were read out in court, included one where he said "immigrants seem to have more rights than me in this town".

In another, he told people to stay away from bars which he said had been frequented by what he called "immigrant rapists".

Ms Beattie told the court police officers at one rally believed the crowd was "motivated and responding" to Charlton's speech.

She told the jury that referring to "immigrants" at a later march, Mr Charlton declared: "They're monsters. There's something wrong in this town."

'Cloak of respectability'

Judge Edward Bindloss remanded Charlton in custody until sentencing on Friday.

After the hearing, Ch Insp Sam Rennison, of Northumbria Police, said Charlton's actions were an attempt to fuel "hatred and unrest" in Sunderland.

He added: "Freedom of speech is an important element of modern society which we all advocate, but spreading hate and racism is totally unacceptable.

"Charlton attempted to disguise his racist agenda under a cloak of respectability by claiming to want to protect the women of Sunderland.

"He knowingly targeted a number of ethnic groups and immigrants at high-profile marches in the city centre, and in doing so, stirred up hatred.

"He then pushed that personal agenda further by circulating misinformation on social media for his own gain."

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