For the past three days, Joshua Bonehill-Paine, a neo-Nazi who is already serving a three year and four month sentence for trying to incite antisemitic demonstrations against the “Jewification” of parts of London, has been tried over the racially-aggravated harassment of Jewish MP Luciana Berger.
Today he was convicted by a jury of racially-aggravated harassment under Section 32 (1)(a) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
Joshua Bonehill-Paine conducted a vile campaign of harassment against Luciana Berger based exclusively on the fact that she is Jewish. In so doing, he abused her with many well-worn antisemitic tropes that have been employed across centuries to justify the persecution of Jews. These included the Jew as Christ killer, the Jew as sexually deviant, the Jew as vermin and the Jew as a grasping money-grabber. This verdict should stand as a warning to those currently riding the wave of resurgent antisemitism that this kind of hateful behaviour is criminal, and that it will be severely dealt with by the law.
The court found that Bonehill-Paine wrote five articles written between October 2014 and January 2015 in response to the jailing of neo-Nazi, Garron Helm. Helm had been convicted for tweeting a picture of Ms Berger with a yellow star superimposed onto her forehead, a reference to the Nazi practice of forcing Jews to wear distinctive yellow stars. Referring to the MP as “a communist Jewess”, the tweet bore the message “You can always trust a Jew to show their true colours eventually” along with the hashtag #HitlerWasRight. Though Helm pleaded guilty at his trial, Bonehill-Paine held Ms Berger to be responsible for his imprisonment, and believed that she should be targeted for this.
Prosecutor Philip Stott had told the court that Bonehill-Paine began his campaign of harassment with five articles with the headlines:
- “Racist Anti-White Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger Exposed”
- “Is the Labour Party a Jewish Party?”
- “ZOG [Zionist Occupied Government] attacks The Daily Stormer in relation to successful Berger campaign”
- “Joshua Bonehill: on the eve of battle”
- “The Legacy of Operation Filthy Jew bitch”
All of the articles were published on two websites run by Bonehill-Paine and described Ms Berger as “a rodent”, an “evil money-grabber”, “a dominatrix”, and “responsible for the death of Jesus”. The articles also included photographs of Ms Berger’s face superimposed onto a rat, Ms Berger being spanked by Ed Milliband, Ms Berger cradling a baby bearing the head of Chukka Umana (she had recently given birth), and a sexually explicit picture which we will not describe here. One of the articles supported a campaign by The Daily Stormer which urged its readers to “Call her a Jew, call her a Jew communist, call her a terrorist, call her a filthy Jew bitch. Call her a hook-nosed yid and a ratfaced kike. Tell her we do not want her in the UK, we do not want her or any other Jew anywhere in Europe. Tell her to go to Israel and call for her deportation to said Jew state.” Three videos of Bonehill-Paine expounding on his ideas were also played to the jury, including one entitled “The Jewification of Great Britain”.
Mr Stott said that “Both the language and imagery deployed in these articles are strongly offensive” and told the jury that Bonehill-Paine claims the comments in the articles are reasonable and fall within the right to free speech. He said that the articles would have caused alarm to the Jewish community in general and to Ms Berger in particular.
Bonehill-Paine’s barrister, James Palfrey stated that his client did not mean his comments to be taken literally, and that they were “a puerile attempt at satire”. Mr Palfrey told Ms Berger that nobody would take seriously the claim that she had killed Jesus, or would believe that any of the images were really of her. He also told Ms Berger that she was not the intended audience for the articles.
Giving evidence, Ms Berger stated that the articles had left her “troubled and concerned” and “sickened”. The “military language” used by Bonehill-Paine and the encouragement of others to become involved in the campaign of harassment had left her more concerned for her personal safety than she had ever been since her election. She told the court that the articles had resulted in the implementation of safety measures.
In one farcical moment, Mr Palfrey, told the court that his client would not be giving evidence, to which Bonehill-Paine shouted from the dock that he would. In the event he did not testify, and Mr Stott told the court that he had failed to give evidence because he “can’t defend the indefensible”. Even Bonehill-Paine’s barrister agreed that he was simply a narcissist after recognition. Bonehill-Paine’s evidence would have been unlikely to sway the decision, as the case largely relied on archived web pages and videos, and the records from a laptop which police found hidden behind a board in Bonehill-Paine’s kitchen.
Ultimately, Bonehill-Paine stood little chance, damned by his own hand.