Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Tuesday, 16 June 2009 17:58 UK

Race hate criminals return to UK

The first Britons to be convicted of inciting racial hatred online are to arrive back in the UK.

Simon Sheppard, 51, of Brook Street, Selby, and Stephen Whittle, 41, of Avenham Lane, Preston, were found guilty at Leeds Crown Court in 2008.

The men printed leaflets and controlled websites featuring racist material.

The pair, who fled to the US but failed in their asylum bid there, will be taken to court shortly after they return to the UK on Wednesday morning.

Sheppard and Whittle were originally convicted of race-hate offences at a trial in July last year.

Sheppard was found guilty of 11 offences and Whittle was found guilty of five offences. Sheppard was found guilty of a further five charges in January 2009.

However, the pair were not in court to hear the verdicts against them, as before the jury in the first trial could return verdicts, both men fled to Los Angeles International airport and attempted to claim political asylum.

But their bid was thrown out by a US immigration judge.

Leaflet complaint

The pair were charged with publishing and distributing racially inflammatory material, and possessing racially inflammatory material with a view to distribution.

The court heard the investigation into Sheppard began when a complaint about a leaflet called "Tales of the Holohoax" was reported to the police in 2004 after it was pushed through the door of a synagogue in Blackpool.

It was traced back to a post office box in Hull registered to Sheppard.

Reviewing lawyer Mari Reid, of the CPS's Counter Terrorism Division, had earlier said there was evidence of Sheppard controlling websites which featured racist material, some of it written by Whittle, under the pen name of Luke O'Farrell.

Upon their return to the UK, the men will be taken by West Yorkshire police from the airport to Leeds Crown Court.

A spokeswoman for Humberside Police said the two men would be sentenced at the earliest opportunity, but that would depend on several factors, such as the availability of their legal team.



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