Probation for Northern Ireland man who handed out hate leaflets with Britain First leader
A Belfast man found guilty of stirring up hate by distributing leaflets in Ballymena has been put on probation for a year and ordered to participate in a course called "Accepting Differences".
Lee Brown (29), with an address at Shore Crescent, was sentenced yesterday at Ballymena Magistrates' Court on a charge of distributing written material in the Harryville area of Ballymena on October 20 last year.
The specifics of the charge were that the material was "threatening, abusive or insulting", with the intention of "stirring up hatred or arouse fear".
Brown and his former co-accused, Britain First leader Paul Golding, had contested charges regarding the leaflets in June but were found guilty.
Last month Golding was given a three month jail term, suspended for two years, for offences regarding possessing and distributing leaflets.
Brown's sentence had been put back for a pre-sentence report.
The charges came after Britain First held rallies in the Co Antrim town last autumn.
Golding spoke at the first rally but police bail conditions prevented him from attending the second rally.
At the centre of the court case was a leaflet which was distributed ahead of the second Britain First rally which had the title: 'Stop the influx of migrants into Ballymena ... now!'
Previously, a defence barrister for Golding said the leaflets were connected to a political ideology and although the contents might be "unattractive" to many the aim of them was to encourage residents to attend a rally to put pressure on politicians to take action regarding a "perceived problem over immigration".
Brown's defence barrister Andrew Moriarty previously warned that the courts needed to be very careful not to "criminalise speech".
Yesterday, Mr Moriarty said Brown is no longer a member of Britain First and that at the time of the offence he had been brought in "for security purposes but had been asked to deliver a few leaflets as well".
The lawyer said Brown wished to make it clear that he is "categorically not racist", adding that his client is currently on a methadone substitute programme.
In passing down the sentence, District Judge Nigel Broderick said there was a "glimmer of hope" that Brown appeared to have recognised that his actions in distributing the leaflets could have been interpreted as being racially motivated.
He subsequently placed Brown on probation for 12 months with a condition that he takes part in an 'Accepting Differences' course.