Jews in Britain do not experience the same levels of discrimination as other, more visible, ethnic groups, despite small increases in the number of antisemitic incidents reported. Public expressions of antisemitic attitudes are largely confined to the political fringe, either far-right or Islamist.

The latest figures (for the first three-quarters of 1998) from the Jewish communal monitoring body, Community Security Trust, show a 6 per cent increase over the first nine months of 1997 in the number of antisemitic incidents recorded, from 169 to 179. The 1997 figure however - continuing the trend of previous years - showed a 5 per cent decrease on the 1996 figure (218 down from 228). The small 1998 increase is ascribed to the overspill of tension in the Middle East. The general downward trend is ascribed to more effective policing, more criminal prosecutions and a more determined attitude on the part of the Jewish community.

Demographic data

Total population: 58.4 million

Jewish population: 300,000 (two-thirds in London; other main centres: Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow)

Other religious minorities: approximately 6 per cent of total population (Muslims 500,000, Hindus 400,000, Sikhs 300,000)

Political data

Political system: constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy

Government: Labour Party (since May 1997), led by Prime Minister Tony Blair

Other main parties: Conservative Party, previously in power for eighteen years, latterly under John Major, led by William Hague since June 1997; Liberal Democratic Party, led by Paddy Ashdown (until his impending retirement)

General election of May 1997: Labour won 419 of the 659 seats in the House of Commons - 179 more seats than all the other parties combined - bringing to an end eighteen years of Conservative rule

Local elections of May 1998: while Labour remained the strongest party in local government nationally, and the Liberal Democrats remained in second place, the Conservatives gained some ground in these elections at the expense of both those parties: Labour is now in control of 94 councils (a net gain of 3 councils but a net loss of 79 seats); the Liberal Democrats are now in control of 14 councils (a net loss of 7 councils and of 123 seats); the Conservatives are in control of 8 councils (a net gain of 1 council and 258 seats); 50 councils are under no overall control.

Economic data

GDP 1997: a growth rate of 5.1 per cent on 1996

Inflation 1997: 3.1 per cent (Office for National Statistics)

Unemployment 1997: 5.6 per cent (1,582,000), down from 7.5 per cent in the previous year

Currency: £1 = US$1.63 (22 May 1998)

Individual Jews were present in the British Isles in Roman times but organized settlement began after the Norman conquest of 1066. Massacres of Jews occurred in many cities in 1190, most notably in York. The medieval settlement of Jews came to an end with their expulsion by King Edward I in 1290. After that date, only a few converts to Christianity or secret adherents to Judaism remained. Following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, a covert Jewish community became established in London, but the present community dates from 1656.

During the following three centuries, there were few serious outbreaks of antisemitic violence. By the early nineteenth century Jews had achieved virtual economic and social emancipation. Over the next eighty years all barriers to political emancipation were removed.

The influx of Jewish refugees from Russia between 1881 and 1914 (when the British Jewish community grew from 60,000 to 300,000) led to antisemitic agitation on the streets and in parliament, although these activities were less organized than in France or Germany.

The rise of European fascism and Nazism encouraged the growth in Britain of the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists, and the Imperial Fascist League. Antisemitic rallies and marches in the mid-1930s led to street battles between right-wingers on the one hand, and Jews and left-wingers on the other. At no time was there any likelihood of far-right electoral success. The government, while sometimes unsympathetic to those who resisted antisemitism, was ultimately concerned with the threat to public order and Britain's legislation banning overt paramilitary activity dates from this time.

Sir Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists, was interned during the Second World War, together with other fascist and Nazi sympathizers. Despite protests he was released in 1943.

As the war was ending Mosley's supporters were back on the streets of London and Manchester, calling for his return to political life. In 1948 an amalgamation of sixty pro-Mosley groups and book-clubs formed the Union Movement with Mosley as leader. Between then and the 1959 race riots in Notting Hill the Mosleyites were active and violent.

In the late 1950s a younger generation of neo-Nazis, the precursors of the National Front and the British National Party, including people like John Tyndall, agitated against the Jewish community. While there were several arson attacks on synagogues and physical assaults on Jews, information supplied by anti-fascists prompted the authorities to take action, and several leading neo-Nazi activists were imprisoned.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s the forerunners of the groups now active achieved their widest support, but they were ultimately undermined by the changing political climate and their own internal divisions.

The issue of gold looted by the Nazis continues to be in the headlines. In February 1997 the US under-secretary of state for commerce and author of a report on war-time international trade, Stuart Eizenstat (see Switzerland), said that Britain should freeze its 'residual gold', i.e. the gold that Britain holds in the Bank of England as one of the three members of the Tripartite Gold Commission (with France and the USA) set up after the Second World War to redistribute gold to European countries that had been occupied by Germany. The current value of British residual gold is approximately £25 million (US$40.75 million, 3.5 tons), what remains of the original fund of £2.5 billion (US$4 billion, 337 tons).

By September 1997 it was agreed that the holdings of the Tripartite Commission, which together amounted to £40 million (US$65 million), would be switched to a fund to help victims of the Holocaust. This announcement followed months of investigation into the source of the gold - which it transpired had come not only from bank supplies but also from individual Holocaust victims (so-called 'material wealth').

In December 1997 an international conference on Nazi-looted gold took place in London, organized by a group of British parliamentarians and attended by representatives of forty-one countries that handled gold and other assets during the Second World War, including Switzerland.

Following the conference countries due to receive their gold balances from the Tripartite Gold Commission donated money to establish a fund to which those whose assets were stolen might lay claim. Each country involved undertook to publish an account of what happened to the gold or money taken from the Nazis. A further conference was scheduled to be held in November 1998 in the USA.

According to Home Office figures, the total number of racially motivated incidents reported to the police in 1996-7 rose again, from 12,222 incidents in 1995-6, to 13,151. As in past years the government ascribed the rise in part to increased confidence among victims in reporting the incidents to the police. It also pointed out that the definition of a racial incident varied widely between police forces, leading to a lack of consistency in reporting, and that half the incidents (58 per cent) were accounted for by less serious types of crime, such as property damage or verbal harassment. The Home Office has recommended the standardization of reporting.

Allegations that teenagers were subjected to racial abuse during a February 1998 residential course in Nuneaton run by soldiers to introduce children to military life are being investigated by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The six soldiers led by a senior NCO that made up the army youth team in question have been suspended.

Indeed, a review of ethnic minority initiatives, commissioned by the MoD and made public in March 1997, exposed widespread racial discrimination in the armed forces (see also Antisemitic incidents). The latest figures show that only 1.5 per cent of the 75,000 army personnel identify themselves as black or Asian. The MoD escaped legal action by vowing to 'root out racism' and entering into a five-year 'racial equality' partnership with the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), to include the training of senior officers in race relations and the recruitment of more men and women from ethnic-minority backgrounds.

At the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool in October 1997, Lord Tebbit (a former cabinet minister in the Thatcher government) criticized the development of a multicultural society in Britain. Interviewed later on Radio 4's Today programme, Lord Tebbit added: 'We must see if we can find a way in which Muslims can be truly British. I think there are ways in which that can be done, in which their law and their tradition can be respected. But it has to be respected that, if one is living in a Christian country, it is Christian law that overrides it.' William Hague publicly rebuked Lord Tebbit for his comments.

In the run-up to the Countryside March (London, 1 March 1998) - a massive demonstration of heterogeneous groups representing various rural interests, but generally united by opposition to a bill banning fox hunting - a leader by editor David Harcombe in a magazine of the British Field Sports Society, Earth Dog-Running Dog, criticized black Labour MP Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow), an opponent of fox hunting, as follows: 'I resent Oona King. She is the daughter of some immigrant . . . telling us what to do. What right has she got to criticize the people of this country? How dare she attack us when her and her kind are always asking for special privileges for minorities?'

At the end of March 1998 an inquest jury ruled that a black man, Alton Manning, who had died in custody in a private jail in 1995, had been unlawfully killed after being placed in a neck lock. An outcry followed the comment by Richard Tilt, the head of the prison service, made on BBC's Newsnight: 'Afro-Caribbean people are more likely to suffer positional asphyxia than Whites.' A Home Office study, Deaths in Police Custody, published in July 1998, found that 47 per cent of all black detainees who died in custody had done so in circumstances associated with police actions or in accidents when officers were present, as opposed to only 7 per cent of white detainees who died in custody.

Reverberations from the racist murder of black student Stephen Lawrence in South London in April 1993 continue. In February 1997 a coroner's jury found that Lawrence had been unlawfully killed 'in a completely unprovoked racist attack by five white youths'. Of the five white men implicated in the murder, two had cases against them abandoned by the Crown Prosecution Service, and the other three were formally acquitted of murder after a private prosecution brought by the Lawrence family collapsed in 1996. They appeared at the inquest but refused to answer questions. The following day the Daily Mail published photos of the five captioned 'Murderers', and challenged the men to sue if the allegation was unjustified.

The high-profile public Inquiry into the Matters Arising from the Death of Stephen Lawrence began before a high court judge in March 1998 and culminated, in June, in an appearance by the five implicated men in which they could not be questioned about their guilt or innocence, and a controversial protest staged by members of the Nation of Islam who alleged that the authorities were protecting the five men. At the same time the spokesman for the Metropolitan Police, Ian Johnston, admitted in his evidence that the Lawrence investigation had been 'flawed and incompetent' and offered an unprecedented apology to the Lawrence family for having failed to bring their son's murderers to justice. The statement fell short of accepting that racism played any part in that 'failure'. However, a later submission to the inquiry by Robin Oakley, one of the Metropolitan Police's most influential independent consultants, said that an institutionalized culture of racism pervades the police service, and that it may have affected every officer who investigated the Lawrence murder. The inquiry took final submissions in September 1998 before holding open hearings in other UK cities with large ethnic minority populations. In Manchester in October the chief constable of the Greater Manchester Police, David Wilmot, told the inquiry that there was 'institutionalized racism' in his force. The inquiry was expected to publish its report by the end of the year.

A great deal of public and media scrutiny of the police force's record on race relations followed in the wake of the Lawrence inquiry. Scotland Yard's own surveys taken during the inquiry showed that only 4 out of 10 black people had confidence in the London force, and that overall confidence dropped during the hearings. A senior officer was quoted as saying that there 'must be a significant cultural change in the Met post-Lawrence' (Guardian, 30 July 1998).

An analysis of stop and search, and arrest figures in England and Wales published by Statewatch, an independent European police monitoring group, in late July 1998 showed wildly divergent figures in different parts of the country. While the overall stop and search rate is 17 per 1,000, four forces stop more than 100 black people per 1,000 population (Merseyside being the highest with 189). Surrey heads the list of differences between the rate for white and black people: black people are eight times more likely to be stopped and searched than Whites. Only two forces (Cumbria and Northumbria) stop and search more white people than members of visible minorities.

As for arrests, the rate for the general population is 37 per 1,000 per year: for white people it is 34 per 1,000; for Asians 47 per 1,000; for Afro-Caribbeans 155 per 1,000; and other ethnic minorities 64 per 1,000. The highest arrest rate for white people (Northumbria) is 59 per 1,000 but only four forces have arrest rates for black people lower than that; and in seven forces the rate of arrest of black people exceeds 200 per 1,000, amounting, as the report says, to 'arresting one in every five black people'.

A report published by the Crown Prosecution Service in October 1998 shows that only 37 per cent of incidents with a racial factor were identified as such by the police in 1997-8 (the same figure as in the previous year), raising questions about police willingness to see, or name, racial hatred as a motive for crime. The figures varied considerably between police forces. The report also shows that judges and magistrates were downplaying racial crimes by failing to impose the harsher sentences allowed by recent legislation. Although a racial element was highlighted by prosecutors in 85 per cent of all crime with a racial component the court imposed the stiffer sentence in only 22 per cent of these cases.

Reports and opinion polls

In February 1997 a report on racial attitudes based on a mix of opinion polls and focus groups was published by the Institute of Public Policy Research. The results show that only 6 per cent of white people believed there was no racial prejudice in Britain, while deep anxieties were expressed about the loss of a 'white British identity'. Additionally, 5 per cent of Afro-Caribbeans, 7 per cent of Asians and 4 per cent of Jews believed that people in Britain were not at all prejudiced. About 45 per cent of Whites, Asians and Jews believed people in Britain were either very or quite prejudiced, a figure which rose to 67 per cent for Afro-Caribbeans.

The report also demonstrated the existence of inter-ethnic prejudice, with many Asians and Jewish people showing antipathy to Afro-Caribbeans. When asked if there was too much African immigration into Britain, 39 per cent of Asian, 35 per cent of white, 25 per cent of Jewish and 17 per cent of Afro-Caribbean respondents 'definitely agreed' or 'tended to agree' that there was. Asked if they would 'mind if one of your close relatives were to marry a person of Afro-Caribbean origin', 32 per cent of Asian, 29 per cent of Jewish and 13 per cent of white respondents said they would 'mind a lot'.

The report identified so-called 'die-hard racists' primarily as white working-class males. The second category, the 'I'm not racist but . . .' group, tended to be white middle-class women and first-generation Asians. 'Comfortable liberal' anti-racists were mostly middle-class professionals.

In February 1997 the Runnymede Trust published a report entitled Islamophobia: Its Features and Dangers. Designed as a consultation document providing a broad overview of the situation, it called for radical changes in the attitude and behaviour of the media, politicians and community leaders in order to fight discrimination, harassment and violence against British Muslims. The chair of the commission stated that hostility against Muslims was forcing them out of the mainstream of British society and preventing them from playing a proper part in national debates. More concrete proposals for action were published under the title Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All at the end of the year.

The Policy Studies Institute published the results of its fourth national survey of ethnic minorities under the title Ethnic Minorities in Britain: Diversity and Disadvantage in 1997. The survey was conducted in 1993-4 with a sample of 5,196 people of Caribbean and Asian origin and 2,867 white people for comparison. The survey shows, above all, that diversity among minority groups is now as marked as the Black-White divide. Some minority groups are doing relatively well in Britain but others face severe disadvantage: Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are in serious poverty; those of Indian and Caribbean origin have had mixed experiences; in many ways African Asians and Chinese people are doing as well as, and in some cases better than, white people. Another finding is that men (as opposed to women) from ethnic minorities are seriously under-represented in the top 10 per cent of jobs. The survey shows that all ethnic minorities experience some degree of racial prejudice or discrimination.

Refugees and immigration

During 1997, 32,500 refugees applied for asylum in Britain and 36,045 decisions were taken. Of those 3,985 were granted asylum - including 1,760 from former Yugoslavia and 985 from Somalia - 3,115 were given exceptional leave to remain and 28,945 were refused asylum.

Several hundred Roma arrived at the Channel ports, particularly Dover, in late 1997, mainly from Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and applied for political asylum on the grounds of persecution at home. Most of them were subsequently deported. A further influx in August 1998 - when the immigration service recorded a sharp increase in the number of Roma arriving in London by air - was believed to be related to the proposed tightening of asylum legislation which was not yet in force (see also Slovakia).

In a unanimous ruling in April 1998, five law lords (of the House of Lords) defined eligibility for political asylum in a manner likely to reduce further the numbers qualifying for that status. Under the new definition it would no longer be sufficient to request asylum on the grounds of membership of a group involved in a civil conflict: in future applicants will have to prove that they are at greater personal risk than other members of the persecuted group. Furthermore the applicant will have to have a present fear of persecution: their fear of ill-treatment at the time they left their country of origin would not suffice. The judgement was welcomed by the government as a much-needed clarification of the law, in the context of its commitment to a 'fairer, faster and firmer' procedure for dealing with a backlog of some 51,000 asylum applications and 23,000 appeals against refusals.

A government White Paper on asylum-seekers followed in July 1998. While it allowed for the almost total acceptance of some 10,000 applicants who filed before July 1993 and a 'sympathetic' hearing for another 20,000 who applied before 31 December 1995, all later applicants would be subject to stricter and speedier procedures: a new requirement that applicants reside in accommodation designated by a new Home Office agency; the provision of welfare benefits in the form of vouchers rather than cash; and tougher enforcement powers for immigration officers, including the power to enter property forcibly and to uncover bogus marriages. Furthermore, there would be a greater use of detention centres for illegal immigrants and those facing deportation (although those detained would be given a speedy bail hearing before a judge).

Far-right parties

Antisemitic parties and organizations remain marginal to the political process in the UK, although they retain the capacity to disrupt community relations and incite hatred and violence. The activities of Combat 18 (C18) have receded considerably since the group's split in 1997 (see below). C18 was set up in 1992 with help from veteran US neo-Nazi Harold Covington and his National Socialist White People's Party. It openly promotes violence and antisemitism, and has adopted some of the features of the US far right: for example, C18 calls for the establishment of a 'white homeland' in Essex; it also nominally adheres to the 'leaderless resistance' ideology (see United States), and membership is vetted and by invitation only (in contradistinction to the other British far-right groups, particularly the British National Party (BNP, see below), which are more rigidly hierarchical in their structure, with an often autocratic leadership). Although the actual membership of C18 has never risen above a few hundred, it has proved attractive to racist football hooligans and followers of the neo-Nazi music scene, as well as violent young men seeking more action than the BNP or National Front (NF) provides.

At the end of 1996 the group began to be beset by problems, particularly an internal conflict over control of its lucrative White Power music network, Blood and Honour (B&H). The conflict eventually culminated in the expulsion of C18 founding leader Charlie Sargent, his brother Steve Sargent's setting up of a rival faction (the National Socialist Movement, see below) and, eventually, Charlie Sargent's life imprisonment for the murder of C18-member Chris Castle (see below, and Legal matters: trials and prosecutions). In addition, several of the group's leaders were imprisoned. The revelation by World in Action (ITV, April 1998) that Charlie Sargent had acted as a police informer throughout this period begs many questions about much of this history.

In January 1997 a series of letter-bombs posted from Sweden by Danish neo-Nazis, on the instructions of a C18 leader, to prominent mixed-race couples (including British swimmer Sharon Davis and athlete Derek Redmond, and Frank Bruno and his wife) as well as to supporters of the opposing faction, signalled a move into violent terrorism and internecine war. During the trial in Denmark in August 1997, Thomas Nakaba (head of the Copenhagen branch of C18), Michael Volder and Nicky Steensgard recounted how the new C18 leader, Will Browning, together with Darren Wells, supplied hit-lists, explosives and a handgun to the Danish neo-Nazis, as part of a campaign against those they regarded as traitors (see Legal matters: trials and prosecutions, and Denmark).

In February 1997 Browning and Sargent were in fact imprisoned for race-relations offences committed before the group split (see Legal matters: trials and prosecutions). On his release in August 1997 Browning set about reorganizing C18 and moved the profitable B&H operation to Denmark with the assistance of Marcel Schilf, a German-Danish neo-Nazi domiciled in Sweden and the owner of NS Records (see also Publications and media, Denmark and Sweden). At about the same time Sargent's brother Steve and long-time neo-Nazi activist, Satanist and ideologue David Myatt (see Publications and media) established his opposing faction, National Socialist Movement (NSM), composed of those loyal to Charlie Sargent. The autumn of 1997 was marked by attacks by the opposing factions on each other - in print, on the Internet and on the streets. The work of a team of detectives established by the Metropolitan Police began to bear fruit in late 1997 and early 1998 with disruptive raids on C18 members and others (see also France), as well as subsequent court cases (see Legal matters: trials and prosecutions). In the early months of 1998 many NSM members seemed to be increasingly involved with a re-revitalized NF (see below).

The British National Party (BNP), ideologically, is the most racist of the far-right parties that contest local and national elections. In practice, however, there is little to distinguish between BNP activists and their counterparts in the NF. The National Democrats (ND) present a relatively less extreme face than the NF, from which it recently split. During the early part of 1997 the focus of these groups was the general election, at which they failed to make any real impact with voters except in the East End of London and West Yorkshire, their traditional heartlands. Late 1997 was marked by a series of embarrassing actions against, and revelations about, the BNP as its leadership engaged in covert negotiations with the NF in an attempt to heal the divisions between them. While supporters of the two groups often intermingle at street level, any possibility of merger appeared to fade in the early months of 1998, as a re-emergent NF threatened to overtake the BNP in some areas as the most active neo-Nazi organization.

The BNP, with a paid-up membership of 400 and a similar number of active sympathizers, has been for many years (after superseding the NF) the largest and most active of the far-right groups. Its long-time leader, John Tyndall, is expected to retire in 1999, and be replaced by the Cambridge-educated ex-NF leader Nick Griffin (see Publications and media and Legal matters). The BNP remains committed to an antisemitic and neo-Nazi ideology, although its overt strategy has become one of promoting opposition to the 'global economy', and European economic and political integration. It increasingly appeals to middle-Britain, the so-called 'white vote', which it characterizes as being intimidated by Britain's ethnic and religious minorities. Recent recruitment drives - allegedly orchestrated by Griffin - are aimed at rural areas: a BNP presence has been increasingly apparent at agricultural shows in the countryside where its magazine, British Countryman, is distributed. Griffin is apparently also interested in shifting the party's emphasis from the poor of East London to the upwardly mobile groups that occupy the new towns of Milton Keynes, Basildon and Slough.

The BNP has been hampered by the continuing failure to replace its headquarters, lost in 1996 after a lengthy legal battle, and has more recently been forced on to the defensive by a television documentary, The Cook Report  (June 1997), which exposed Nick Griffin's attempts to link the BNP with the NF, and to obtain funding from the French Front national (FN, see France). The party is also continually confronted with embarrassing attacks by anti-fascists.

The BNP sent a small delegation to France in September 1997 to attend both the trial of Robert Faurisson (see France) and a meeting of the FN. The party's French contact had previously been the Parti nationaliste français et européen (PNFE, see France) of Claude Cornilleau. However, no foreign speakers appeared at the annual congress in November 1997, a break with recent tradition. The FN subsequently denied having any intention of forming an alliance with the BNP, and it became apparent that the desire for such an alliance was entirely one-sided.

The BNP received a slight and temporary boost to its sagging membership around the time of the general election in May 1997, when it contested 56 seats. The party received an average of 1.35 per cent of the vote, faring best in traditional areas of support, mostly in the East End of London and West Yorkshire. It saved the candidates' deposits in three constituencies: Poplar and Canning Town, with 7.26 per cent; Bethnal Green and Bow, with 7.5 per cent; Dewsbury (Yorkshire), with 5.18 per cent. Having stood more than fifty candidates, it was able to produce its own election broadcast which was shown on two terrestrial television channels in April 1997. The BNP proclaimed their campaign a success in that they had received as a consequence between 2,500 and 3,000 enquiries from prospective members. However, in subsequent months, party activities continued at the pre-election low level with only the South-east London, West Midlands, Manchester and Yorkshire branches holding regular meetings.

In the May 1998 local elections the party fared badly. It contested 34 seats, many fewer than expected, and received an overall vote of 6,029 (3.28 per cent). Their 6 candidates in Tower Hamlets received an average of 398 votes (4.53 per cent), as compared to 1,167 (8.9 per cent) in 1994. The 10 candidates in Newham polled on average 207 votes (5.6 per cent), as against a 1994 average of 617 votes (11.41 per cent); the highest result was in Beckton ward where Peter Hart received 11.31 per cent of the vote (as compared to an alarming 33 per cent in 1994). Results for the other 11 contested London seats (Bexley, Hackney, Hillingdon, Merton, Sutton, Waltham Forest) were even lower. Outside London the party's results were derisory, with only one of the 7 candidates polling over 100 votes: Richard Mulhall in Calderdale (Ilingworth ward) won 6.19 per cent of the vote.

In by-elections BNP candidates stood in the following constituencies: Moorfields ward, Hackney (July 1997), where Vic Dooley received 45 votes (2.9 per cent); in Kings Norton ward, Birmingham (1997), where Nigel Deering received 50 votes (1.87 per cent); Uxbridge parliamentary constituency at the end of July 1997 when Frances Taylor received 205 votes (0.64 per cent); Ordnance ward, Newham (October 1997), where Ken Francis received 84 votes (11.23 per cent); a council by-election in Ashford, Kent (June 1998), where Michael Easter received 3.4 per cent of the vote; a council by-election in Bexley (June 1998) where Colin Smith received 80 votes (0.87 per cent), Pauline Smith received 75 votes (0.82 per cent) and Susan Turner received 73 votes (0.79 per cent); a local council by-election in Custom House ward, Newham (July 1998), where Paul Borg received 112 votes (11.75 per cent); a local council by-election (October 1998) in which Kevin Lowne received 40 votes (1.26 per cent).

The ND, formerly the NF before it split in 1995 (see below), led by Ian Anderson, operates at a low level of activity, with a membership of 150-200. During the May 1997 general election it averaged 1.12 per cent of the vote and one candidate saved his deposit with a vote of 11.39 per cent, although this was the seat of the speaker of the House of Commons which is traditionally unopposed by the major parties. In July 1997 Sharon Edwards contested the Hateley Heath ward of Sandwell in a council by-election and received 70 votes (7.1 per cent); also in July Ian Anderson stood in the Uxbridge parliamentary by-election, receiving 157 votes (0.49 per cent). In the May 1998 local elections, a total of 5 candidates (including Anderson) stood in London wards (3 in Newham and Southwark), Amber Valley and Worthing; the party's overall vote was 622 votes (2.43 per cent of wards contested), with the best result being Amber Valley (Aldercar ward) where Timothy Knowles polled 6.33 per cent of the vote.

What is now the NF - that section of the former NF, led by John McAuley, that refused to turn away from open neo-Nazism and become part of the ND in 1995 - continues to exist with over 200 members and has been increasingly active in a few areas, including parts of London, Dover and the West Midlands, to the chief detriment of the BNP. In the May 1997 general election, six candidates represented the party, managing an average only of 0.98 per cent, and all lost their deposits. The organization is currently led by McAuley and Tom Holmes. In the Uxbridge by-election in July 1997 McAuley received 110 votes, 0.35 per cent, and in the Beckenham parliamentary by-election in November 1997 267 votes (0.84 per cent). In November 1997 the NF took the lead among neo-Nazi groups by organizing street protests in Dover against the influx of Roma from Slovakia and the Czech Republic (see Racism and xenophobia), and in December 1997 by organizing protests against the presence of Sinn Féin leaders at Downing Street for the Anglo-Irish talks. In the May 1998 local elections the NF contested four seats (Tower Hamlets, Harrow, Sandwell and Dudley), and received an overall vote of 551 votes (3.02 per cent of wards contested).

The British Movement (sometimes known as the British National Socialist Movement), which had lost members to the more active C18 during 1995 and 1996, used the recent disarray within C18 to re-establish itself. Led by Micky Lane and Benny Bullman, the group is occasionally known as Rock against Communism (RAC) as a result of its challenge to the B&H neo-Nazi music network. RAC's plans for an international 'Aryan Fest' in August 1997 in South Wales were scuppered as a result of action taken by the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, various MPs, MEPs, Community Security Trust, police forces and anti-racist organizations. The organizers of the festival were expecting to attract an audience of over 1,000 with a line-up which was to include performances by British bands English Rose, Brutal Attack and Squadron, the Welsh group Celtic Warrior, the German group 08/15 and US band Intimidation One. Four people, including two US citizens, were held in custody in Cardiff after police raided a flat in the city, seizing weapons and large quantities of literature. At least two more US citizens were deported upon arrival at a London airport.

In mid-1997 British imitators of the US white-supremacist Ku Klux Klan (KKK, see United States) renewed their attempt to establish the KKK in the UK by moving their area of activity from the Midlands to London where they began a desultory and ultimately unsuccessful recruitment campaign under their new leader Alan Winder, supported by several BNP activists. In the summer of 1997 Winder sent a letter to members and supporters of the various Klan groups of the past, informing them that he was now in charge of the Invisible Empire, United Klans of Europe (IEUKE). He stated that he intended to make the IEUKE a success: 'nothing short of our being the leading group throughout Europe for the fight for the preservation of our race and community and the exile of the Jewish and mud races'. Various publications from the group followed: January 30: An Independent Voice for the Ku Klux Klan in Britain Today, for example, was a mishmash of far-right material including C18-type hit-lists. Winder has since given up on this ill-fated project.

Two marginal far-right, third-positionist groups also continue to be active. The International Third Position (ITP), led by Derek Holland and Colin Todd, and its rival organization - which changed its name in early 1998 from the English Nationalist Movement (ENM) to the National Revolutionary Faction (NRF) - led by Troy Southgate, have been increasingly influenced by Léfèbvrist Catholic ideology (although Southgate recently described such a perspective as irrelevant) and are strongly antisemitic (see Legal matters: trials and prosecutions).

The Third Way (TW), led by Patrick Harrington and Graham Williamson, was formed in 1989 by breakaway members of the NF who subsequently eschewed neo-Nazism and cultivated links with fringes of the Green movement, Islamists and - with regard to its support for 'black separatism' rather than 'white supremacy' - the Nation of Islam (see below). TW contested two seats in the May 1998 local elections (both in the London borough of Havering) and won 4.94 per cent (Airfield ward) and 6.77 per cent (Elm Park).

During the autumn of 1997 the Operation Farrakhan campaign was formed by Manchester-based Paul Twino in an attempt to have the 1986 exclusion order lifted on US Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan (NOI, see United States). As a consequence, and despite the fact that the order was reviewed and extended in 1996, the home secretary undertook to review the evidence to establish whether Farrakhan's entry into Britain would be 'conducive to the public good'. In a letter sent by Twino to the home secretary in July 1998 - with copies to the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) and several MPs - he accused the government of kowtowing to 'Hebraic puppeteers' and characterized the BoD as 'that loathsome and slanderous generation of Talmudic vipers'. The NOI continues, albeit slowly, to grow in Britain, although claims of 2,500 members are probably exaggerated. However, in addition to its mosques, the group has recently opened two Blacks-only schools which teach the Qu'ran and African history, and a shop selling NOI products and literature in Harlesden (West London). In June 1998 the NOI staged a controversial protest at the Stephen Lawrence inquiry (see Racism and xenophobia). This was followed by a '10,000 Man March' in Trafalgar Square, London, in October 1998, in imitation of the NOI's Million Man March in Washington DC in 1996; up to 2,000 people attended the rally.

Islamist groups

Britain has in recent years become a centre for militant Islamists, either fleeing persecution in their countries of origin or choosing Britain as a safe haven from which to operate. Britain has been criticized by several Arab and Muslim countries for giving asylum to Islamist militants whose countries of origin seek their extradition. Many of the Arab, Indian sub-continental and South-east Asian groups that are active include some antisemitic attitudes within their anti-western world outlook.

It is possible to distinguish two distinct sorts of groups: those which attempt to influence Britain's indigenous Muslim community; and those which court neither publicity nor attention, but concentrate on maintaining links with Islamists internationally and on planning operations, even acts of terror, in their countries of origin.

Among the former is Hizb ut-Tahrir (HUT, Islamic Liberation Party), the British branch of an organization founded in 1953 in East Jerusalem, led by Farid Kassim and Fuad Hussein. The group's ideology is centred on the creation of an Islamic state, if necessary by jihad or holy war. HUT is anti-democratic, homophobic and opposed to gender equality, and particularly hostile to Zionism, Hinduism and Sikhism. The organization does not differentiate between Israel, Jews and Zionists, as is evident in its repeated calls for attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets. HUT is banned, though covertly active, throughout the Arab world, and the British branch is thought to follow policy laid down by a central leadership in hiding in the Middle East.

The most active group (also in the first category) is al-Muhajiroun (AM, The Emigrants) - which claims to have been founded in Saudi Arabia in the 1960s - co-led in Britain by Omar Bakri Fostock, now known as Omar Bakri Mohammed, and Dr Muhammed al-Masari, the former leader of the Saudi opposition group Campaign for the Defence of Legitimate Rights (CDLR). AM broke away from HUT in February 1996, apparently as a consequence of the leadership's objections to Mohammed's confrontational tactics and his high media profile. AM controls various subsidiary organizations, such as the Society of Muslim Lawyers and the Society of Converts to Islam. In the course of several interviews Mohammed has justified Islamist terrorism and attacked the mainstream Muslim leadership. He was the subject of a television documentary ('The Tottenham ayatollah', Channel 4) broadcast in April 1997.

There is little difference between the ideologies of AM and HUT. Following the 1995 ban on HUT and AM by the National Union of Students, and their exclusion by many universities and colleges, both groups reverted to their former mode of recruitment and activity within the Muslim community - that is, via mosques and 'study circles'. However, since October 1997 they have returned to campus activity, albeit under new names.

In August 1997 AM organized an 'international march against oppression' which was publicized worldwide via posters and the Internet. The march was planned as one of a series of simultaneous events in the USA, France, Pakistan, Turkey and Britain, but only the London rally took place, in Trafalgar Square, attracting 700 participants, a figure which reflects AM's marginal position within the UK Muslim community.

In October 1997 AM's plan to stage another rally was thwarted when the London borough of Ealing cancelled the hall booking. AM subsequently picketted Ealing town hall, culminating in the arrest of one of its members who refused to stop displaying antisemitic and Holocaust-denial placards (see Legal matters: trials and prosecutions). Various other demonstrations against Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia also took place.

As for the second category, expatriate Islamist groups operating in the UK, the most notable are Hamas, the Egyptian Gama'a al Islamiya (GI, Islamic group, see Egypt), the Algerian Front islamique du salut (FIS) and Groupe islamique armée (GIA) (see Algeria), the Saudi CDLR and Islamic Reform Movement (MIRA), Osama bin Laden's Advice and Reformation Committee, and the Afghani Taliban.

The latest figures (for the first three-quarters of 1998) from the Jewish communal monitoring body, Community Security Trust, show a 6 per cent increase over the first nine months of 1997 in the number of antisemitic incidents recorded, from 169 to 179. The 1997 figure however - continuing the trend of previous years - showed a 5 per cent decrease on the 1996 figure (218 down from 228). The small 1998 increase is ascribed to the overspill of recent tension in the Middle East. The general downward trend is ascribed to more effective policing, more criminal prosecutions and a more determined attitude on the part of the Jewish community.

The largest category of offence, abusive behaviour, increased in the first nine months of 1998 from 63 (the same period of 1997) to 104 incidents. The 1997 figure (86 incidents), however, represented a decrease on the 115 incidents recorded in 1996. This category includes low-level, rarely serious threats. However, the October 1997 attack on a performance of a play about Anne Frank - produced by a non-Jewish theatre company at the Warehouse Theatre in South-east London - was noteworthy as, with several other similar incidents, it marked a new trend in which members of far-right groups have begun to attend public events associated with the Holocaust. Most other incidents in this category involved the receipt of one-off antisemitic messages.

Although the large-scale distribution of literature increased both in 1997 and 1998 - 28 reported incidents in the first nine months of 1998 compared to 23 during the same period of 1997, and 33 reported incidents throughout 1997 compared to 26 in 1996 - the number of such incidents has been dwindling in recent years as police action against perpetrators has become more effective (see Legal matters).

The third largest category, damage and desecration of communal property, increased in 1997 to a total of 58 reported incidents (31 in 1996), but decreased in the first three quarters of 1998 to 21 reported incidents (from 49 in the same period of 1997). There were no instances in 1998 of the large-scale desecrations of cemeteries or synagogues seen in previous years. There was a series of arson attacks on Ruislip Synagogue in April, May and August 1997, the smashing of the windows of a Jewish-owned estate agency opposite the Central London Mosque by a convert to Islam in September 1997 (see Legal matters: trials and prosecutions), and a continuing series of incidents against various communal institutions in Manchester.

Antisemitic threats fell to 19 reported incidents in 1997 (42 in 1996), and to 11 in the first nine months of 1998 (17 in the same 1997 period). The incidents were almost equally divided between one-off threats to individuals and nuisance bomb hoaxes.

Violent assaults (15 incidents in the first nine months of 1998, and 18 in 1997) increased marginally in both years (13 in the first nine months of 1997, and 14 in 1996). In 1997 they included: several hit-and-run attempts at the time of the High Holy Days (September 1997) in Manchester and Borehamwood, when car drivers deliberately attempted to hit worshippers on their way to or from synagogues; assaults on orthodox Jews in Golders Green (July 1997), Stamford Hill (July and August 1997) and Manchester (June, September, October and November 1997); air-rifle shootings of a rabbi and congregants in Muswell Hill (July 1997).

In March 1997 the MoD opened an investigation into the dismissal of an orthodox Jewish officer in the Territorial Army (TA) who was allegedly ordered to leave because of his religion. It was said he was unable to participate fully in the TA training programme as some of it required attendance on Saturdays (the Jewish sabbath).

In May 1998 a 25-shot airbomb firework was thrown into the Gateshead yeshiva by a group of unidentified youths. There was considerable damage to the affected area of the building but no casualties.

For details of proposed legislation on Holocaust denial, see Legal matters: Holocaust denial.

The overwhelming influence of teaching the Holocaust within the national history curriculum's coverage of the Second World War has ensured that Holocaust-deniers remain confined to the antisemitic political fringe.

However, most far-right groups in the UK - and some Islamist groups, notably AM (see Publications and media) - promote Holocaust denial by various means, including through their associated book-clubs and recommended reading lists. The main pseudo-scientific and pseudo-historical publications are available only from those sources, and not in mainstream bookshops. 

The same now applies to the works of David Irving, Britain's best-known Holocaust denier. As has been true in recent years Irving continues to be more active in the USA than in Britain. His attempts to give evidence on behalf of Frederick Toben, director of the Australian Adelaide Institute which promotes Holocaust denial, came to naught when in November 1997 Australia refused him a visa for the fifth time in four years (see Australia), and the judge rejected his affidavit.

The Cromwell Press and the Centre for Historical Review, both owned by Anthony Hancock, continue to publish Holocaust-denial literature - including the pseudo-scientific Leuchter Report (with a foreword by David Irving), the Ball Report and the Rudolf Expertise - as well as far-right and neo-Nazi material for the international market.

For other far-right publications, see Legal matters: trials and prosecutions.

Right Now!, founded in 1993, is an increasingly influential magazine that brings together the extreme nationalist fringe of the Conservative Party and the extra-parliamentary far right. Among Right Now!'s patrons are MPs, and the magazine has a growing readership on the anti-European right as well as links with far-right 'academics' in the United States. It describes itself as the 'voice of the patriotic and conservative Right . . . on the right, not over the horizon', and eschews crass racism in favour of attacks on multiculturalism and immigration, and support for sociobiological and eugenicist explanations of racial difference.

Explicitly antisemitic propaganda is published only by the fringe organizations already mentioned. Although ongoing prosecutions manage to halt the publication of some obscene and violent material, they have no effect on the overall quantity available. Indeed, internal problems within the BNP and C18 have allowed several emerging factions to start their own publications.

The BNP produces two monthly publications, Spearhead and British Nationalist, and a number of publications produced by individuals or branches, as well as operating three web-sites. The most noteworthy of these recent one-off publications is Mindbenders: Who Controls the Media? (1997), written for the BNP by Nick Griffin (see Parties, organizations, movements and Legal matters: trials and prosecutions) and Mark Deavin and modelled on an American original, which asserts that Jews seek to control the thought processes of English people, and is illustrated with the names and photographs of several hundred Jews prominent in the media and advertising.

Strikeforce, a C18 magazine, was founded by the organization's leader Will Browning on his release from prison in August 1997 (see Parties, organizations, movements and Legal matters: trials and prosecutions). Its first appearance was in January 1998. Another occasional publication produced by C18 is The Wolf.

Other publications of far-right organizations include Blood & Honour (B&H), The National Socialist and Column 88 (NSM), January 30 (KKK), The Flame (NF) and The Flag (ND). A few far-right third-positionist publications have also been surfacing, such as Scorpion (a quasi-intellectual journal edited by Martin Walker), Final Conflict and The Voice of St George (ITP), Catalyst (NRF), Rebellion and Crusade.

Despite her recent conviction (see Legal matters: trials and prosecutions), the veteran antisemite Dowager Lady Birdwood continues to produce propaganda. Her 'organizations', Self-Help and British Solidarity, publish the occasional newspaper Choice. A recent antisemitic four-page pamphlet entitled 'Zionist-Jewry's "security" outfit is OUT OF CONTROL' was published by Inner Circle Researchers, which is associated with Lady Birdwood and former NF-members Martin Webster and Jeremy Le Boer Fowler. The pamphlet accuses the Community Security Trust (see Antisemitic incidents) of being a paramilitary organization working for the Israeli Mossad.

The Sussex-based printer Anthony Hancock provides a service for a number of far-right groups both in Britain and abroad, producing material in more than a dozen languages (see also Holocaust denial).

Most far-right groups maintain Internet web-sites, as do several Islamist groups. The BNP, NF, ND, C18, NSM and ITP all post offensive material on their sites although much of it duplicates their print literature.

Dave Myatt's NSM web-site (see Parties, organizations, movements) - formerly hosted by the Canadian Bernard Klatt on his FTC-Net which also hosted the web-site of the French neo-Nazi skinhead gang Charlemagne Hammerskins (see France) - included some of the most extreme and violent material to appear recently. In December 1997, following police raids at his home, Myatt ceased posting material on the Internet. In April 1998, following a public outcry in Canada, Klatt closed down his FTC-Net web-site.

David Irving's Focal Point web-site replicates the style of his former occasional print publications. In 1997 he posted details of his attempts to harass his opponents.

The most active Islamist group on the Internet is AM who post material both on their own web-site and, until October 1998, via the Ohio-based Islamist 'news agency', MSA News. In April 1998 AM's UK site was closed by their service provider (The Web Factory) on the grounds that its content was both offensive and antisemitic: AM had sent e-mail messages to some fifty Jewish organizations in which the Holocaust was described as a 'fabrication'. A statement by AM said that 'Jewish influence and the crusader views in the British media' were 'temporarily silencing Muslim groups, radical or moderate'. MSA News also refused to host the site following the group's support for Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi terrorist leader.

Anti-racist legislation

Public disquiet at the continuing rise in racial violence prompted further revision of the law and its application.

In April 1997 all magistrates received guidelines drawn up by a working party of magistrates and justice's clerks, and approved by the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice, urging that racial motivation be taken into account when sentencing in all cases of violence, burglary and criminal damage.

In September 1998 the new Crime and Disorder Bill came into effect. The measure is designed to address gaps in existing legislation by creating new offences of racial violence and harassment. The bill also provides for the immediate arrest without warrant of anyone suspected of committing a racially motivated public order offence, and provides for stronger penalties when racial motivation is proven. The new law enhances the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act which created a new offence of intentional harassment, and gave the police powers of entry, search of persons and premises, and seizure in relation to written material likely to stir up racial hatred. These powers have been used to good effect in prosecuting the publishers of antisemitic material.

In January 1998 the Home Office junior minister, in a statement to the House of Commons, confirmed that the present government would continue the previous government's policy, and that of the commissioner of police, of prosecuting racially inflammable material on the Internet, providing it falls within Britain's jurisdiction.

Indeed the Crown Prosecution Service agreed in early 1998 to the prosecution of prominent British neo-Nazi leaders whose web-sites promote violent antisemitism despite the fact that they are uploaded from other countries.

Holocaust denial

In January 1997 MP Mike Gapes introduced a bill in the House of Commons making it a criminal offence to claim, whether in writing or in speech, that the policy of genocide against the Jewish people committed by Nazi Germany did not occur. Gapes explained that the existing legislation against incitement to racial hatred, contained in the Public Order Act 1986, was ineffective in tackling Holocaust denial. He saw the need for specific legislation in this area, and commented that he had received support from the BoD and the Holocaust Educational Trust among other bodies. The bill had an unopposed first reading, but there was insufficient time in the Commons for it to become law before the change of government in May. When the bill was introduced Tony Blair said he saw a 'very strong case' for such a measure and that he was giving it 'active consideration'.

In March 1997 the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) established a law panel to consider how Holocaust denial might be combatted by legal means. The panel commissioned submissions from legal experts, academics and race relations specialists, with the aim of producing policy recommendations to be submitted to the government. In February 1998 Mike O'Brien, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Home Office, informed the Interparliamentary Council against Antisemitism that the government was awaiting the symposium's conclusions and reports from the Holocaust Educational Trust and the BoD.

Trials and prosecutions

In February 1997 three leaders of C18 - Charlie Sargent, Will Browning and leading B&H figure Martin Cross - were imprisoned for publishing and distributing issues no. 1 and no. 3 of the journal Combat 18. Both contained crude antisemitic articles and drawings, advice on how to construct bombs and booby-traps, and Holocaust-denial material. They pleaded guilty to possessing 'threatening, abusive or insulting' material which was intended to stir up racial hatred. Sargent and Cross were sentenced to seventeen months' and Browning to twelve months' imprisonment.

The clampdown on C18 continued, after an adjournment in April, in September 1997 when Mark Atkinson was imprisoned for publishing and distributing The Stormer, a magazine that contained hit-lists of anti-fascists, Jews and Jewish communal institutions, and well-known black athletes. Many people on the lists received hate-mail and threatening phone calls, and several synagogues were daubed with graffiti, one of them repeatedly. The judge at the trial called on the government to increase the maximum sentences for the offences committed (a matter now be addressed in the Crime and Disorder Bill, see above). Atkinson, a thirty-one-year-old dustman, was jailed for twenty-one months. His flatmate, thirty-five-year-old Robin Grey, a former NF candidate, was convicted of possessing The Stormer with intent to distribute, and was sentenced in October 1997 to twelve months' imprisonment (plus an additional six months still left to serve from a previous sentence).

In May 1997 Alexander Baron, a self-styled 'libertarian' and a prolific author of antisemitic and Holocaust-denial material, was found not guilty of witness intimidation and making threats to kill, following an investigation of his financial affairs by the Department of Social Security (DSS). Baron conducted his own defence, financed by advertisements posted on the Internet web-site of US neo-Nazi Harold Covington. Baron is a former member of the British Movement (see Parties, organizations, movements) and a current associate member of the Islamic Party of Britain. He has also been known to attend and address BNP meetings. In September 1997 Baron's civil suit against Gerry Gable, editor of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight who had labelled him an 'antisemite', was settled out of court. Gable was not forced to retract his statement. In December 1997 Baron was charged afresh with violations of the Malicious Communications Act. He was fined on conviction at a magistrate's court in London in January 1998.

In July 1997 Gerald Rowe, a seventy-year-old former senior member of the NF, was found guilty on sixteen charges of possession with a view to distribution of material likely to incite racial hatred. Rowe was known to the Jewish community as having been responsible, with others, for the production and distribution of large numbers of anti-Jewish hoax letters during the early and mid-1990s. In September 1997 he was sentenced to six weeks in prison, suspended for two years.

Also in July 1997 four far-right activists from the North of England who have been involved with C18, the BNP and ITP - Jason Wilcox, Kevin Gough, Andrew Roughly and Jonathan Hill - were imprisoned in Oldham, Lancashire, for distributing antisemitic and anti-immigrant material likely to incite racial hatred. Cox was sentenced to six months in prison, Gough, Roughly and Hill to four months each.

Nick Griffin (see Parties, organizations, movements and Publications and media), the BNP's leader-in-waiting, and Paul Ballard, a BNP activist, were charged in July 1997 with incitement to racial hatred in connection with their magazine The Rune (published January-December 1996), which contains both racist and antisemitic libels, and Holocaust-denial material. At the initial court hearing, Griffin made clear his intention of challenging historical evidence of the Holocaust, and, at the trial in April 1998, he called the French denier Robert Faurisson as a defence witness. Griffin was sentenced to nine months and Ballard to six months in prison, both with two-year suspensions.

In August 1997 five drunken football fans travelling by train between Glasgow and Aberdeen were arrested and subsequently convicted for screaming 'We hate the Jews' and 'Kill the Bill [police]', and for giving Nazi salutes. They were part of a larger group who ran riot on their way home from a match at Motherwell.

C18's international connections were revealed in the August 1997 trial in Denmark of three Danish neo-Nazis who sent letter-bombs in January 1997 to selected targets in the UK on the instruction of the group's leaders in London (see also Parties, organizations, movements, and Denmark). Thomas Nakaba was imprisoned for eight years, and Michael Volder and Nicky Steensgard for three years each for sending the letter-bombs. The court heard evidence that the plot was orchestrated in the UK, to the extent that two C18 members delivered a hit-list, explosives and a handgun to their Danish co-conspirators. One of the C18 delivery men, Darren Wells, was subsequently imprisoned in Scotland for possession of an offensive weapon.

In September 1997 a taxi driver was prosecuted for verbally abusing another, Jewish, taxi driver, who reported the antisemitic insults to the Metropolitan Police Carriage Office, the licensing body for London taxi cabs. The decision to prosecute was taken because previous complaints had been made about the taxi driver by black and Asian passengers.

In October 1997 Anthony Millington, a convert to Islam, came to trial for smashing the windows of a Jewish-owned estate agency opposite the Central London Mosque the previous month. He also assaulted the police officers called to arrest him. The case was deferred awaiting psychiatric reports.

In November 1997 the Charity Commission opened an investigation into The Trust of St Michael the Archangel, a so-called 'Catholic charity' associated with the St George Educational Trust. The investigation followed concern that the funds raised were being channelled into the ITP and its project to build a commune for far-right activists in Spain.

In January 1998 C18 founder and ex-leader Charlie Sargent and Martin Cross (see above) were found guilty of the murder of C18 member Chris Castle in February 1997 as part of the struggle between the group's warring factions (see Parties, organizations, movements). They were sentenced to life imprisonment.

At the beginning of January 1998 Salegh Jasat, a youth from Leicester, was convicted of criminal damage and possession of an offensive weapon following his trial in Leeds for spraying antisemitic slogans on a Jewish-owned house. On account of his age, he was sentenced to twelve hours' community service.

Also at the beginning of January 1998 Leighton Gareth Jones pleaded guilty to race-hate offences at a Newport court, for publishing the antisemitic and anti-immigrant CD Barbecue in Rostock by the C18-affiliated band No Remorse. He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment.

For the third time in recent years the Dowager Lady Birdwood appeared in court, in January 1998, for distributing material in Choice that incited racial hatred (see Publications and media). She was charged with offences that carry a mandatory prison sentence, but the trial at the Old Bailey was stopped when the court accepted she was unfit to plead. The charges against her remain on the record and the presiding judge warned that further prosecutions may follow if her assistants, including former NF leader Martin Webster, continue to distribute such material.

Francis William Pitt was convicted of inciting racial hatred at a Waltham Forest court in January 1998. The conviction follows his arrest in May 1997 for handing out BNP election material that stated 'no immigrants, no criminals'.

The first trial in the UK of an Islamist militant charged with inciting racial hatred took place in early February 1998. The trial of Amera Mirza, a member of AM, followed his refusal to stop displaying antisemitic and Holocaust-denial placards at a picket outside Ealing town hall in October 1997 (see Parties, organizations, movements). He was found not guilty when the court was informed of a mix-up between Mirza and his twin brother. Further trials of AM members for similar offences are expected, following arrests made at the al-Qods rally at the end of January 1998.

According to figures released by the National Criminal Intelligence Service following the World Cup held in France (June-July 1998), 286 English football hooligans (many with links to far-right organizations) had been arrested, of whom 11 were imprisoned and 18 remanded in custody. A further 87 were expelled from France and 99 were refused entry into that country.

War crimes

Szymon Serafinowicz, who would have been the defendant at Britain's first-ever war crimes trial, died in August 1997 at the age of eighty-six. Months earlier, in January, an Old Bailey jury had decided that he was unfit to stand trial on three counts of murder said to have taken place in Nazi-occupied Byelorussia (now Belarus) in 1941 and 1942.

In a second war crimes case, seventy-seven-year-old Anthony (formerly Andrzej) Sawoniuk was charged in March 1997 with killing four Jews in Byelorussia during the Second World War. Sawoniuk pleaded not guilty to the charges at a pre-trial hearing in London in May 1998. He was released on bail pending his trial.

Following continued complaints from many quarters the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, the umbrella body for British universities, undertook a formal enquiry into the presence of extremism and intolerance on campus. The investigation, which included contributions from the BoD, the Union of Jewish Students and the Interparliamentary Council against Antisemitism, reported its preliminary conclusions in June 1997. It is expected that the enquiry will lead to new guidelines proscribing the activities of Islamist groups like AM and HUT within British universities.

During the latter part of 1997 the government oversaw the publication of two important documents on racism: the 'Police research group report on policing racial incidents' and the 'Inspectorate of constabulary's report on police and community race relations'. The former recommended a more consistent approach to the recording of racially motivated incidents, more and better training for the police and clearer guidance on charging and prosecuting offenders of race-relations offences.

These reports complemented another report by the Home Office, 'Perpetrators of racial violence' (November 1997), which showed that perpetrators include people of both sexes and all ages whose attitudes towards ethnic minorities are often shared by the wider community in which they live, a fact that allows perpetrators to legitimize their actions in their own eyes. The report identified stress, delinquency and criminality, as well as racial prejudice, as the main causes of racial violence and harassment. It adopted a holistic approach consisting of three linked strategies: the identification of and effective action against perpetrators; the identification of potential perpetrators and the development of strategies to divert them from actually becoming perpetrators; the development of a range of strategies for consistently addressing the perpetrator community's general attitude towards ethnic minorities.

Britain's formal acceptance in 1997 of the European Convention on Civil Liberties and Human Rights is expected to lead to other initiatives. In June 1997 the home secretary welcomed the formation of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.

In January 1998 the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, set up by the Runnymede Trust, and one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken on multi-ethnicity, was launched under the directorship of Helen Seaford. The findings and recommendations of the commission will be published over a two-year period, and are expected to form policy decisions on how social and political institutions will have to adapt to the changing nature of the population.

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© JPR 1999