Britain First Leader faces charges under the UK terrorism act
Affected Countries: united-kingdom;
In 2018, Britain First leaders Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen were convicted on multiple counts of religiously-aggravated harassment against Muslims, following a trial at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court. Golding and Fransen were sentenced to 18 and 36 weeks respectively.
Paul Golding, the leader of the right-nationalist Britain First, is due to appear in Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 21 February on charges of violating the Terrorism Act 2000.
In October 2019 Golding allegedly refused to provide authorities the PIN to access a number of his electronic devices, after being stopped at Heathrow Airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act. Schedule 7 permits police to detain and question people for up to six hours. Golding, who was returning from visiting the Russian parliament at the time he was stopped, called the charges “an abuse of the legislation”, according to news reports.
Refusal to answer questions and refusal to provide access to electronic devices is considered to be an automatic offence under the Act. Under this law a person must also permit a photograph of them to be taken, provide a DNA sample, and agree to a search of their belongings if asked to do so. Devices can also be retained by police for up to seven days, without the need of a warrant. No proof of criminal activity or wrongdoing is required in order for an officer to initiate a Schedule 7 stop.
Human rights group CAGE, which specialises in dealing with terrorism laws, reports that between 2009 – 2019 only 30 people have been convicted of offences following Schedule 7 stops, despite the fact that 419,000 people have been stopped and interrogated under those powers during that time. They have called the terror powers “discriminatory and Islamophobic” due to its apparent disproportionate use against British Muslims. In March 2019 the European Court on Human Rights unanimously ruled that Schedule 7 powers were “susceptible to arbitrary exercise” and violated human rights.
Mohamed Rabbani, international director at CAGE, said that Golding and his ilk are “only now feeling the impact that ordinary Muslim citizens have had to endure for two decades”. He said that “it is wrong that Paul Golding – along with the other 10,000 people stopped in 2019 – should be forced to breach personal and professional privacy without any criminal suspicion”.
Rabbani was himself found guilty, in Westminster Magistrate’s Court in 2017, of withholding a password to his phone during a Schedule 7 stop, despite the fact that the device contained data belonging to an alleged US torture victim.