A neo-Nazi previously convicted of child sex offences will not face a retrial over his alleged membership of banned far-right group National Action (NA), after an Old Bailey jury failed to reach a verdict.
Jack Renshaw, 23, denied being part of the outlawed organisation, but still faces considerable jail time after admitting at a previous trial that he bought a machete in a plot to murder West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper.
Renshaw, from Skelmersdale, Lancashire, also pleaded guilty to make a threat to kill a female police officer, Victoria Henderson, who was investigating him over sex offences. He was sentenced last year to 16 months for inciting a child to engage in sexual activity after grooming two teenage boys on the internet.
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His plans to kill the two women were foiled after a whistleblower - former NA member Robbie Mullen - warned anti-racism charity Hope not Hate, which then informed police, the BBC reports.
Renshaw will be sentenced over the terrorism plot on 17 May.
He has twice stood trial accused of being part of NA, along with two other suspected members: Andrew Clarke, 34, and Michal Trubini, 36, from Warrington. NA has been on the Home Office’s list of banned terrorist groups, alongside the likes of Islamic State and the IRA, since December 2016.
ITV News says that the jury at this week’s trial “deliberated for more than 48 hours but was unable to reach verdicts on any of the defendants on which at least ten of them were agreed following a retrial”.
Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson QC told the court that after careful consideration, a decision had been made not to seek a third retrial.
But what is NA, and what do they believe in?
What is National Action?
NA is a racist neo-Nazi group established in 2013, with branches across the UK, according to the Home Office. They conduct street demonstrations and “stunts” to intimidate communities, and distribute propaganda to recruit young members.
“The group rejects democracy, is hostile to the British state and seeks to divide society by implicitly endorsing violence against ethnic minorities and perceived ‘race traitors’,” the Home Office says.
Although little is known about the size of the group or about individual members, alleged NA co-founder Alex Davies was humiliated while out leafleting in 2016, in a videoed confrontation with a mixed-race teenager in Bath, HuffPost reports.
The charity Hope Not Hate calls NA the “product of the political and ideological demise of the British National Party”, and lists other alleged leaders on its website.
Is National Action linked to violence?
The group has ties to Thomas Mair, 54, the white supremacist who murdered Labour MP Jo Cox in West Yorkshire in June 2016. Mair’s only court statement was “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”, a slogan that appeared on NA’s former website, says the Daily Mail. Following Cox’s murder, the group posted online messages that included, “Our thoughts go out to Thomas Mair” and “Only 649 MPs to go”, according to the Home Office.
NA also published an image celebrating the terrorist attack on gay nightclub Pulse, in Orlando, Florida, and another depicting a police officer’s throat being slit, the Home Office says.
Why are National Action members considered neo-Nazis?
The group has repeatedly used the phrase “Hitler was right” at marches and in online propaganda, which includes videos showing members performing Hitler salutes. Although NA has targeted Muslims, it is chiefly anti-Semitic, propagating Jewish conspiracy theories while fostering a “deep obsession with violence”, Matthew Collins, the head of research at Hope Not Hate, told The Independent.
“This is preparation – they believe it’s necessary because there’s going to be a race war, which will be triggered by Islamist terrorist attacks, and then they will lead legions of white people into war against Jews,” Collins said.
How can National Action exist if it is banned?
Police arrested 22 suspected members or associates of NA in 2016 alone, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Yet despite the crackdown, the group continues to operate by taking on different names – allegedly including Scottish Dawn and NS131 – which have not yet been banned or proscribed as terrorist groups, a technique also used by Anjem Choudary’s Islamist network, The Independent reports.
According to Hope Not Hate, some of the more hard-line activists split off prior to the December 2016 ban to form smaller, more extreme groups including one called the Omega Systems.
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