BRITAIN First has vowed to ‘relaunch’ their activities in Ballymena.
The comment on the far-right group’s website follows a court case involving their leader, Paul Golding, in the County Court in Antrim on Tuesday.
Golding was fined £1,000 yesterday which replaced a suspended prison sentence after a judge upheld his conviction for ‘stirring up hate’ when he distributed a leaflet in Ballymena about migrants.
Delivering her judgment at the County Court, Judge Donna McColgan QC said it was her view that the leaflet, which had been written by 38-year-old Golding, “crossed the boundary” over the right for freedom of expression so “in essence, I’m in agreement with the District Judge and therefore dismiss the appeal against conviction”.
At the end of an earlier hearing at Ballymena Magistrates Court last June Golding, with an address at Dartford in Kent, was convicted of distributing material which was likely to stir up hatred or arouse fear on October 20, 2018.
Golding was also convicted of possessing the written material which was “abusive or insulting” on October 28, 2018 and originally he had been given a three months prison term, suspended for two years.
Golding had visited Ballymena in relation to Britain First rallies planned in the town, but at the centre of the case was a leaflet being handed out which had the title ‘Stop the influx of migrants into Ballymena… now!’.
That leaflet, penned by Golding, made claims about migrants being given housing and benefits and invited people to attend a Britain First rally in Ballymena and to “put pressure” on their politicians.
Following the court case on Tuesday, the Britain First website said: “The good news is Britain First is going to relaunch our campaign in Ballymena against the immigration invasion of that town.
“This was a major victory in itself because Paul is now free to resume political activities in Northern Ireland after a period of a year and a half of enforced inactivity.
“It was the threat of the suspended prison sentence hanging over him that forced Paul to appeal this conviction in the first place.
“For the first time in a long time, Paul was able to stand behind a banner today in Belfast.
“So despite the conviction remaining – and having a chilling effect on free speech in Ulster – it was an operational victory for our movement in that we can now resume regular activities in this part of the United Kingdom.
“For the first time in over a year and a half, Paul is devoid of bail conditions or suspended prison sentences.
“Paul would like to thank everyone who – throughout the last year and a half – has chipped in to help him pay for his legal defence and appeal.
“It has been a long journey, but we managed to avoid disaster by removing the suspended prison sentence.
“Therefore, it was a bittersweet victory today.
“The good news is Britain First is going to relaunch our campaign in Ballymena against the immigration invasion of that town.
“This time though, we will have to tread carefully with what we say and write.
“But despite a year and a half of persecution and criminal prosecution, we are not going to abandon our people in Ballymena because that is what the authorities want!
“The local British residents are in uproar at the levels of immigration into their town and came out in droves for the street rallies we held in the town.
“The only downside of today’s events, is that Paul now has a £1,000 fine to pay within twenty-eight days.
“Obviously, if he doesn’t pay the fine, they can issue a warrant for his arrest.
“So HQ would like to get it paid asap, done and dusted and out of the way.
“Please show Paul you respect and value his relentless and dedicated activism and leadership by chipping in to help him pay the fine asap,” the website said.