Northern Ireland news

Britain First's Jayda Fransen rearrested after appearing in Belfast court

 Britain First leader Paul Golding (far left) accompanies Jayda Fransen to court this morning

The deputy leader of the far-right Britain First group has been re-arrested in Belfast.

It came minutes after Jayda Fransen (31) appeared in court in the city accused of behaviour intended or likely to stir up hatred.

Detectives from the PSNI also detained the leader of the group, Paul Golding, who was there supporting his colleague.

Golding (35) was detained by detectives investigating their speeches at the same Northern Ireland Against Terrorism rally in August.

The PSNI said: "Detectives investigating an incident at a peace wall in Belfast on Wednesday 14 December have arrested a 31-year-old woman in the Belfast area today."

She has been taken to a Belfast city centre police station for interview.

Fransen posted a tweet showing her at a wall used to divide Catholic residents from Protestants in the city to prevent violence. During the video post she criticised Islam.

She was in the city with Golding (35) to answer charges arising from her speech at a Northern Ireland Against Terrorism rally in August.

Golding was detained by detectives investigating the same demonstration.

US President Donald Trump retweeted three unrelated anti-Muslim videos posted by Fransen.

Two featured violent scenes, including someone being pushed off a roof and another person being assaulted.

The group has since boasted it received hundreds of new membership applications and said its Facebook posts were reaching hundreds of thousands more users.

Fransen, from Anerley in south-east London, was charged at Belfast Magistrates' Court with using words which were threatening, abusive or insulting during her speech.

Police had sought curbs on her ability to participate in future rallies in Northern Ireland as well as social media use.

But she took to Twitter within minutes of her release on bail and said it was a "nonsense charge".

"I criticise Islam and now they want to send me to prison for two years."

The court ordered her not to go within 500 metres of any demonstration or parade in Northern Ireland as a condition of her release on bail.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall expressed doubts about whether her jurisdiction extended to the accused's social media use.

Fransen's barrister, Richard McConkey, branded the curbs on her freedom of speech, as a politician, as disproportionate.

 Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the Britain First party, going into court in Belfast today. Picture by Alan Lewis

Ms Fransen was originally arrested by PSNI detectives in London last month.

Her case was adjourned until later on Thursday to hear a bail application.

Around a dozen people in the public gallery watched her appearance.

A detective constable told the court she could connect the accused to the charges.

The court also heard from a lawyer: "The bulk of the evidence is presumably by way of video footage.

"There do seem to be transcripts of this speech which the Crown will say constitutes the offences."

The officer said she was seeking conditions on the accused's bail because of a planned rally on December 10 which was postponed.

"We were concerned that there would be further offences."

She said the rally had been suspended but added that police wanted to prevent her participation in a public rally.

Fransen's lawyer said: "This lady is as entitled to free expression within the law as anyone else.

"If there is an offence she will be arrested like everyone else."

He said she had stood for election and was a politician.

"The idea that she be prevented from speaking in my respectful submission is completely disproportionate."

The officer said police were seeking a further condition regarding the defendant's use of social media and the likelihood of reoffending.

The PSNI officer said she was seeking conditions on the accused's bail because of a planned rally on December 10 - Free Speech For Jayda - in Belfast, which was postponed due to snow.

She added: "We were concerned that there would be further offences."

Mr McConkey said his client was pleading not guilty.

"This lady is as entitled to free expression within the law as anyone else.

"If there is an offence she will be arrested like everyone else."

She had stood for election and was a politician, her lawyer said.

"The idea that she be prevented from speaking, in my respectful submission, is completely disproportionate."

He said there was no suggestion that the rally was illegal and accused police of trying to use the court to "censor" a politician.

The district judge said her decision to bar Fransen from demonstrations or parades was not disproportionate.

"It is not preventing her from speaking, it is that she does not reoffend, purely in the context of which this offence is alleged to have occurred."

The court was told that most of the evidence involved video footage.

Fransen is on bail facing trial over four unrelated charges of causing religiously aggravated harassment as part of a Kent Police investigation into the distribution of leaflets and the posting of online videos during a trial held at Canterbury Crown Court in May.

She will go on trial at Folkestone Magistrates' Court on January 29 alongside Golding, who faces three similar charges.

Her Belfast case is expected to be mentioned again in the city on January 9.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe before January 31st to receive a FREE month of The Irish News Digital

Northern Ireland news

Today's horoscope

Horoscope


See a different horoscope: