Moments ago, neo-Nazi leader Jeremy Bedford-Turner was unanimously convicted by a jury of incitement to racial hatred over a speech he gave in 2015 at a demonstration called to protest against the “Jewification” of Golders Green.
The sentence has not yet been handed down.
The prosecution was blocked for two years by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), forcing Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) into a long legal battle which culminated in the CPS having to reverse its decision not to prosecute Mr Bedford-Turner.
CAA welcomes the verdict and the clear and strong message that it sends that stirring up racial hatred against Jews will not be tolerated, but the key question now is why the CPS got this case so dismally wrong.
In July 2015, neo-Nazis sought to march through Golders Green. Campaign Against Antisemitism stopped their march, and instead they gathered in Whitehall, Westminster in central London, on 4th July. In his speech to neo-Nazis surrounded by police, Mr Bedford-Turner said that: “…all politicians are nothing but a bunch of puppets dancing to a Jewish tune, and the ruling regimes in the West for the last one hundred years have danced to the same tune.” Evoking medieval libels which claimed that Jews drank the blood of non-Jewish children, Mr Bedford-Turner told his followers, of whom one third were from the violent extreme-right National Rebirth of Poland group, that the French Revolution and both World Wars were massacres perpetrated by Jews. He concluded that England was “merry” during the period of the expulsion of Jews from England and demanded: “Let’s free England from Jewish control.” The speech was filmed and posted on YouTube, where it remains.
Under cross-examination on Friday, Mr Bedford-Turner defended his speech. Asked about his views on Jews, Mr Bedford-Turner said: “I would very much like them to leave England.” When asked if this applied to Jewish children, he answered: “Ideally, yes”, reasoning that “Jewish power would have no power if there were no Jews.” He also claimed that Jack the Ripper was a Jew but Jewish power covered this up to the consternation of Judge David Tomlinson. Mr Bedford-Turner’s supporters initially enthusiastically filled the public gallery, but their numbers dwindled over the course of three days in court.
Mr Bedford-Turner was only prosecuted because we forced the CPS to defend British Jews, against its will.
The CPS was expertly represented by Louis Mably QC during the trial, but though the prosecution cannot be faulted, the CPS itself has behaved appallingly to try to stop this prosecution from taking place. Mr Bedford-Turner was only prosecuted because we forced the CPS to defend British Jews, against its will.
After CAA reported the speech to the Metropolitan Police Service, Mr Bedford-Turner was interviewed by police officers and a file was passed to the CPS, but after more than five months, senior lawyers from the CPS’s Counter Terrorism Division finally confirmed that they would not to prosecute the case. The CPS told us that there was no realistic prospect of a jury finding that Mr Bedford-Turner’s speech amounted to incitement to racial or religious hatred, defined by law as using threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behaviour with the intention (or likely consequence) of stirring up racial or religious hatred. CAA’s Chairman, Gideon Falter, who had witnessed the speech, applied for Victims’ Right to Review, but was told by the CPS that he was not a victim and had no victim’s rights.
Faced with no alternative, CAA took the unusual step of issuing judicial review proceedings to submit the CPS decision to the scrutiny of the High Court. CAA was partly motivated by a growing concern that the CPS is failing to take antisemitic crime seriously. 2015, the year in which the crime was committed, was amongst the worst years on record for antisemitic hate crime. Yet of 15,442 prosecutions of hate crimes by the CPS that year, only 12 were prosecutions of antisemitic hate crime. In the years since, as antisemitic crime has surged, the CPS has continued to prosecute only a paltry number of antisemitic crimes.
We have since been told by a source at the CPS that it was the Director of Public Prosecutions who personally interceded to overrule a senior prosecutor who had advised going ahead with the prosecution.
Whilst waiting for the High Court to decide whether to allow CAA to proceed, the case was brought to the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Chief Executive of the CPS, but we have since been told by a source at the CPS that it was the Director of Public Prosecutions who personally interceded to overrule a senior prosecutor who had advised going ahead with the prosecution. In the end, on 6th January 2017, the Hon. Mr Justice Haddon-Cave gave CAA’s judicial review permission to proceed on all grounds and limited CAA’s cost liability to zero. He held that this case “raises potentially important issues for society in this growing area of racist and religious hate crime.” The case was expedited to be held before a Divisional Court of the Administrative Division of the High Court on Wednesday 8th March 2017, but on the eve of the hearing, after more than a year of maintaining that her decision was correct, the Director of Public Prosecutions agreed that the decision should be quashed and taken again by a more senior lawyer.
CAA was represented pro bono by leading counsel Brian Kennelly QC, junior counsel Jamie Susskind, and solicitor David Sonn, to whom we are immensely grateful, and without whom Mr Bedford-Turner would have escaped justice.
Now that Mr Bedford-Turner has been convicted, CAA has been entirely vindicated.
More than half of British Jews believe that the CPS is doing too little to fight antisemitism.
- Almost one in three British Jews have considered leaving the UK due to antisemitism. Only 59% of British Jews feel welcome in the UK, and 17% feel unwelcome. 37% of British Jews have been concealing their Judaism in public.
- Only 23% of British Jews think the CPS does enough to protect them. More than half of British Jews believe that the CPS is doing too little to fight antisemitism.
- 64% of British Jews felt that the authorities were not doing enough to address and punish antisemitism.
- Only 39% of British Jews have confidence that if they reported a hate crime, it would be prosecuted if there was enough evidence.
Gideon Falter, Chairman of CAA, said: “We are delighted by this result, Jeremy Bedford-Turner has been unanimously convicted by a jury of incitement to racial hatred. The real question is why the Director of Public Prosecutions and CPS got this so dismally wrong. CAA had to battle the CPS in court since 2015 to force them to prosecute this case, but a speech that took us and a jury moments to understand as a clear-cut case of incitement, was repeatedly and wrongly dismissed by the CPS as not only not an offence of incitement, but not even a lesser offence. This was always a matter of basic law and common sense. The question now is why the CPS seems to demonstrate such incompetence in dealing with cases of antisemitism. Despite record levels of antisemitic crime, there are dismally few prosecutions of antisemites in Britain every year. Antisemites are becoming bolder and British Jews are losing faith in the authorities. The CPS must stop making excuses and prosecute antisemites with zero tolerance. If they do not, we will continue to hold them to account in court.”