A daily update from the ongoing trial at the Old Bailey.
WEDNESDAY 20 JUNE
Yesterday, two HOPE not hate staff – Head of Research, Matthew Collins, and CEO, Nick Lowles – were called as witnesses for the prosecution. They gave testimony and answered questions in relation to how Robbie Mullen approached HOPE not hate with information regarding National Action, which led to the uncovering of the plot to murder Rosie Cooper MP.
The courtroom heard:
- Robbie Mullen first contacted HOPE not hate in April 2017 with information regarding National Action, of which he was a member at the time. Mullen could not leave the group as it was “like a cult and he wanted out” and that was why he came to HNH.
- Matthew Collins was the primary point of contact with Robbie Mullen. They met regularly and steps were taken to ensure Mullen’s safety after threats were made against his life.
- In July 2017, Mullen provided HOPE not hate with details surrounding Jack Renshaw’s intentions to murder Rosie Cooper MP.
- Upon learning this information, HOPE not hate’s “first priority was to warn Rosie Cooper” – taking action through Ruth Smeeth MP to inform her of the threat made against her life.
The trial continues.
TUESDAY 19 JUNE
On Friday and Monday, the defence continued their cross-examination of Robbie Mullen. This has now concluded. HOPE not hate Head of Research, Matthew Collins, is giving evidence today to the court.
In the last few days:
- Jurors listened to a speech from 2016 by Jack Renshaw during which he said Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was “right in many senses”, but wrong when he “showed mercy to people who did not deserve mercy.”
- They saw a video of Jack Renshaw speaking to a crowd in Blackpool in 2016 during which he said: “In World War Two we took the wrong side” and “fought the National Socialists who were there to remove Jewry from Europe once and for all, that’s what the final solution was.”
- A recording of Christopher Lythgoe, heard saying that he suggested Home Secretary Amber Rudd as an alternative target to Ms Cooper, but that claimed he had been too drunk to recall some details of Renshaw’s plans.
The trial continues.
THURSDAY 14 JUNE
The defence begins to make its case
The trial of six men for membership of National Action – a banned terrorist group – continued at the Old Bailey. The court has already heard that Jack Renshaw has pleaded guilty to “preparing an act of terrorism by buying a machete to kill the West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper.” He has also admitted plotting to kill police officer Vicky Henderson, who was investigating him for child sex offences.
During Thursday’s, lawyers for the defence started their questioning of HOPE not hate informant Robbie Mullen. Here’s what happened:
- Robbie Mullen began talking secretly to HOPE not hate in April 2017 after becoming disenchanted with National Action. He told the court that National Action was “constantly ready to restart” after being banned, that members continued to meet, and that they undertook unarmed combat training. The jury heard that that the group set up ‘training camps’ where NA supporters trained to fight with rubber knives as well as other weapons.
- There was further testimony over the course of the day that National Action members planned a “white jihad”, with Renshaw’s plan to kill a Labour MP a key part of this. The court also heard testimony that another suspected member of the banned organisation, Matthew Hankinson, told Renshaw he should target a synagogue.
- The defence accused Mullen of contacting HOPE not hate in order to “feel important or to make money.” He denied that throughout the questioning.
The trial continues.
WEDNESDAY 13 JUNE
Revelations from the inside
A key witness in the trial is Robbie Mullen, HOPE not hate’s source inside National Action. He gave evidence today, a day which covered much of of National Action’s behaviours and practices since it’s creation in late 2013 as well as after it was proscribed by the Home Secretary as a banned terrorist organisation in December 2016. The day’s summary is below:
- The court heard evidence from a counter-terror police officer, PC Matthew Fletcher, on the formation, background, and activities of National Action before it was banned. He described NA as a “youth movement” that was “virulently racist” and sought to recruit members both online and offline. PC Fletcher described the kind of war they were recruiting and preparing for: “Part of white supremacy is preparation for the race war in their eyes, in their ideology.”
- The jury was shown a lot of material used by the terrorist group to to recruit members and show off their actions. This included pages of NA’s former website, including ones listing regional branches across the UK, and propoganda videos. Stunts by the group included putting a banana in the hand of Nelson Mandela’s statue in Parliament Square. Videos saw NA members, included some of the defendants, call for “white jihad” and to “cleanse Britain of parasites”, as well as members wearing skull masks and black clothing, making Hitler salutes, and shouting “sieg heil”.
- Robbie Mullen’s evidence outlined his own participation in National Action and his interactions with fellow members and the defendants. He told how he became interested in far-right politics in his late teens and joined neo-nazi group National Action in 2015, after finding out about them online. He stated that he had remained a National Action member after it was banned in December 2016 and that the six men facing trial had remained members, too. He told jurors that the group stood for ‘the free white man’ and was against ‘everything – Jews, blacks, Asians, every non-white’, and that their mission was to “wipe them out by any means necessary. War, anything.” Mullen described NA’s membership and leadership structure, training regime, and his interactions with the defendants. He outlined how he first made contact with HOPE not hate in April 2017 – when asked why, he said: “I honestly think to get out of National Action.” Mullen told the jury about how he learnt of Jack Renshaw’s plot to murder Rosie Cooper MP at a July 2017 meeting in a pub in Warrington – where alleged NA leader Christopher Lythgoe suggested targeting former home secretary Amber Rudd instead. Mullen warned HOPE not hate of the plot who were then able to alert the authorities.
The trial continues.
TUESDAY 12 JUNE
The far right on trial: day one
The first day of the trial of alleged members of National Action has finished. It began with the sensational guilty plea of Jack Renshaw. He has now admitted to plotting to murder Labour MP Rosie Cooper, and plotting to kill a police officer, Vicky Henderson.
Evidence supplied by HOPE not hate led to the trial taking place. Our CEO Nick Lowles and head of research Matthew Collins, along with a HOPE not hate source, are giving evidence in the trial. That means there’s a limit to what we can say publicly. But based on reports from the courtroom, we can share the key details.
The day was taken up with the prosecution outlining the case. The court heard that:
- National Action was set up in 2013 and had been, throughout its time in operation, viciously racist and anti-Semitic. The organisation’s ideology is based on stirring up a violent ‘race war’ against ethnic minorities and those it calls ‘race traitors’. As HOPE not hate has reported extensively, they sought to recruit and radicalise young people using slick social media content, and provocative street actions. Recruitment was by word-of-mouth, with friends recruiting friends. The court heard that National Action was never larger than 100 people, and that their demos were small affairs. National Action used Nazi symbolism in their brands, and glorified violence generally, and Hitler’s reich specifically. Eventually, the organisation was proscribed – banned – by the government as a terrorist organisation.
- The prosecution outlined how, after National Action were banned, one member of the organisation – Robbie Mullen – stayed involved in the group but became disillusioned. As the prosecution said, (as quoted by the Warrington Guardian blog), “Over time, he became increasingly disenchanted with the organisation to the extent that he turned to an organisation which seeks to combat extreme right-wing political racism, called Hope not Hate. He continued to associate with them after the ban, but started to pass information about their activities to that organisation.” Robbie became disillusioned with NA before it was banned, triggered by Jo Cox’s murder. This disillusionment led him to make contact with HOPE not hate.
- The prosecution alleged that the Jack Renshaw plot to kill Rosie Cooper began with his arrest in January 2017 over anti-Semitic speeches he had given during 2016. Renshaw was interviewed by DC Victoria Henderson and another police officer, before being released pending further investigation. When he was arrested, a phone was seized and analysis of the phone revealed what the police considered to be evidence of child grooming.
- In July 2017, there was a meeting at north west pub, at which Renshaw told the group – according to the prosecution – that he was planning to kill his local MP, Rosie Cooper and then to take some people hostage in a pub; when the police arrived he would demand to speak to DC Victoria Henderson and then kill her. He told the group, according to the prosecution, that he would then attempt to be killed by the police. As the Warrington Guardian reports of what was said in court, the alleged leader of NA responded to the outlining of the plan by saying, “don’t’ f*** it up”.
The trial will continue tomorrow and through the next 3-4 weeks.
“An alleged member of a banned neo Nazi group has admitted planning to murder a Labour MP in an act of what he termed “white jihad”, a jury has heard.”
“Jack Renshaw, 23, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to preparing an act of terrorism by buying a machete to kill West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper.”
“He also admitted making a threat to kill police officer Victoria Henderson. But the court heard the plan was foiled after a disenchanted former member of National Action reported the threat to Hope Not Hate, an organisation seeking to combat extreme right-wing political racism.”
“Jurors were told Mr Mullen believed Renshaw was serious and there was an imminent threat to life, and reported what had been said to his contacts at Hope not Hate.”
“Hope not Hate director Nick Lowles alerted the MP Ruth Smeeth – who once worked at the charity – and she in turn warned Ms Cooper, leading to the police inquiry, Mr Atkinson said.”
“The jury heard that Renshaw and his fellow defendants regarded the government as “race traitors” and had been preparing for a war against Jews, gay people, ethnic minorities and anyone not following their violent ideology.”
“Prosecutors said the group continued to be members of National Action after it was banned in December 2016, recruiting new members and undergoing combat training at their headquarters in Warrington.”
“In July last year, Renshaw revealed his plan at a pub in the Cheshire town unaware that an informant for the anti-extremism group Hope not Hate was present.”