A SELBY man has been found guilty of waging a campaign of “obnoxious and abhorrent” race hate against Jews and other minority groups, before fleeing to America.
Simon Sheppard is now set to face justice after being convicted of a string of race crimes following a lengthy probe which discovered he had been involved in the publication and distribution of a leaflet likening notorious Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz to a holiday resort.
The 51-year-old, of Brook Street, was found guilty of 11 race-related offences last July, but by then he and another man – Stephen Whittle, 41, of Preston, who was convicted of five similar crimes – had absconded to the US. They are currently in the hands of the American immigration authorities.
A jury in their original trial was unable to reach a verdict on a further seven charges against Sheppard, after which the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to have a retrial on six of these.
A Leeds Crown Court jury yesterday found Sheppard guilty on five of the charges, with the allegations in the two trials all concerning publishing racially inflammatory material, distributing racially inflammatory material or possessing racially inflammatory material with a view to distribution under the Public Order Act 1986.
The investigation began when a complaint about a leaflet called “Tales of the Holohoax” was reported to police in 2004 after being pushed through the door of a Blackpool synagogue. It was subsequently traced back to a post office box in Hull registered to Sheppard.
“People are entitled to hold racist and extreme opinions which others may find unpleasant and obnoxious,” said reviewing lawyer Mari Reid, of the CPS’ Counter Terrorism Division, which deals with race hate crimes.
“What they are not entitled to do is to publish or distribute these opinions to the public in a threatening, abusive or insulting manner, either intending to stir up racial hatred or in circumstances where it is likely racial hatred will be stirred up.
“The vast majority of the material in this case concerned Jewish people, but there was also material relating to black, Asian and non-white people generally, all described in derogatory terms using offensive language.
“As well as printed leaflets, there was evidence of Simon Sheppard controlling websites which featured racist material, some of it written by Whittle, under the pen name of Luke O’Farrell.”
Sheppard and Whittle, who denied the charges, will be sentenced in March.