The leader of a far-right group behind numerous stickering campaigns had been found guilty of racial hatred.
Sam Melia, 34, of Pudsey in West Yorkshire, was convicted at Leeds Crown Court of intending to stir up racial hatred through the distribution of the stickers and encouraging racially aggravated criminal damage.
Mr Melia, a professional sign-maker, was unmasked in 2020 as the leader of Hundred Handers, an anonymous network of activists who have carried out far-right stickering campaigns across the country and worldwide.
The stickers, which feature far-right slogans and imagery and antisemitic tropes, were seen in cities in Britain, Europe, the United States and Australia.
It was discovered that Mr Melia set up a Telegram group, which had over 3,500 subscribers, for Hundred Handers, where members could download stickers for printing.
The stickers featured text such as “there is a war on whites,” “they seek conquest, not asylum” and “intolerance is a virtue” alongside the group’s logo.
Police arrested Mr Melia in Farsley, Leeds in April 2021. Upon his arrest, stickers bearing nationalist text were discovered in his wallet.
At his home, police found a poster of Adolf Hitler, an emblem of an eagle with a swastika and a copy of a book by Sir Oswald Mosley, who was the founder of the British Union of Fascists.
Police also discovered digital archives of over 200 Hundred Handers stickers and evidence of the stickers being posted around the UK. They also found evidence that he encouraged members of the Telegram group to place stickers in public areas and proof that he carried out similar activities.
Mr Melia was also found to have told others to use anonymous e-mail providers and a VPN for any communication relating to Hundred Handers’ activities.
After police searched his home, the defendant and his wife discussed the raid online, which attracted almost 3,000 viewers and raised nearly £1,500 in one hour.
During the hearing, Mr Melia argued that, while his stickers could be offensive to some, any offence caused would be a “subjective reaction”.
When Mr Melia raised the issue of free speech, prosecutor Tom Storey dismissed the notion and stated that the case against the defendant was not to “punish someone for their political views.”
Mr Storey reminded the court that the charges brought against Mr Melia were based on his actions stirring up racial hatred.
In court, Mr Melia was joined by his wife, Laura Tyrie, who also goes by “Laura Towler” and is reportedly the Deputy Leader of Patriotic Alternative (PA). Ms Tyrie, who was in the public gallery, sat with Mark Collett, the leader of PA.
Mr Melia is also a regional organiser for PA, a UK-based group headed by the former leader of the youth wing of the BNP, Mr Collett. Mr Collett is reported to have dabbled in Holocaust denial, is regularly heard as a guest on the radio show of the former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, David Duke, and has described the Holocaust as “an instrument of white guilt”.
PA is known for its efforts to recruit youth to its white nationalist ideology. Previously, the far-right group published an online “alternative” homeschool curriculum condemned as “poison” and “hateful” and attempted to recruit children as young as twelve through live-streaming events on YouTube, according to The Times.
Mr Melia is due to be sentenced in March later this year.
Nick Price, head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said: “Melia was perfectly aware that the stickers he published on his Telegram channel were being downloaded and then stuck up in public places around the country. He also knew full well the impact these racially inflammatory stickers were having, and by attempting to remain anonymous, sought to protect himself and others from investigation.
“He was very deliberate in the manner he wanted to spread his messages of racial hatred, and online messages recovered made it clear that he knew these stickers were being displayed in public and causing damage to public property. It is illegal to publish such material intending to stir up racial hatred towards others, and the CPS will not hesitate to bring prosecutions against those who break the law in this way.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism closely monitors the far-right, which remains a dangerous threat to the Jewish community and other minority groups.