Two racists who fled to America after being found guilty of publishing inflammatory material are to be returned to Britain to face justice.
Simon Sheppard, 52, of Brook Street in Selby, and 42-year-old University of York graduate Stephen Whittle, fled to America in the hope of claiming political asylum after being found guilty of running an internet race-hate campaign. Sheppard was found guilty of 16 charges relating to the possession, publication and distribution of racist material. Whittle, who is from Preston, Lancashire, was found guilty of five counts of publishing racially inflammatory material.
The pair fled to the US last July before they could be sentenced, expecting America’s free speech laws to protect them. Unfortunately for them they have spent the last 11 months locked up after becoming embroiled in the country’s asylum process. They are now due to be flown back to Britain, after Judge Rose Peters ruled they had not been persecuted in Britain in the past and were unlikely to face persecution in the future.
Ironically, if they had not claimed asylum with an airport official and instead walked off into the country and then found themselves an asylum lawyer, the pair may today have been living free in California.
In a prison interview with the Los Angeles Times, Sheppard said: “We thought they’d hold us for a day or so. We couldn’t see how they wouldn’t grant us asylum. The things we supposedly had done in Britain aren’t illegal in America. We came to the beacon of free speech in the western world, which turned out to be a complete fantasy. We’re not cowed and we’re not repentant. We have the right even to make mistakes. We could be wrong, it’s not inconceivable. We have a right to be wrong. All we’re doing is speaking our minds.”
The investigation into Sheppard and Whittle 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.
The pair are expected to be put on a plane for England next Tuesday, and to be sentenced at Leeds Crown Court the following day. Both are expected to be jailed.