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EDL leader convicted of assault

The leader of the English Defence League is facing a possible jail sentence after being convicted of assault.

Stephen Lennon launched a verbal attack on a fellow member of the far-right group before headbutting his victim, Preston Magistrates' Court heard.

Lennon, 28, founder of the EDL, "goaded" a crowd of followers during a rally by 2,000 supporters in Blackburn on April 2.

The 28-year-old, from Luton, Bedfordshire, launched a tirade against a man, who was accused of putting messages on the internet about police informers and "grasses", before trouble broke out in the crowd among EDL members, the court heard.

Alan McKee, 33, from Gateshead, was pulled from the crowd by stewards for his own safety and taken away by police officers.

But the court heard he later confronted Lennon about his speech as the rally continued with other speakers. Lennon, who was surrounded by his own security guards and EDL stewards, then lunged or stepped forward and headbutted Mr McKee.

Lennon denied assault and claimed during his speech he had harangued another man, also called Alan, an Alan Smith, from Newcastle, who was a member of an EDL splinter group, the North East Infidels, intent on causing trouble.

The court heard from two police officers, Pc Paul Green and Pc Andrew Sumner, who told the court they were on hand when the incident happened. Both maintained they clearly saw Lennon headbutt Mr McKee.

After a day-long trial District Judge Peter Ward said he believed the police officers and convicted Lennon of common assault. Sentencing was adjourned until November 3 when police will apply for a criminal Asbo (Anti-social behaviour order) to prevent Lennon attending EDL rallies.

Outside court, Lennon said: "It's a fit-up. They are fabricating evidence. I have had ongoing harassment. All this is about getting an Asbo that will ban me from demonstrations and protests. It is meant to be a democracy but this is a stitch-up."

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