Northern Ireland news

Far-right activist charged with inciting hatred at Britain First-linked rally in Belfast

 Far-right activist Paul Rimmer leaving Belfast Magistrates' Court where he has appeared charged with inciting hatred during a speech made at a Britain First-linked rally last summer. Picture by Lesley-Anne McKeown/PA Wire

Far-right activist Paul Rimmer has appeared in court charged with inciting hatred during a speech made at a Britain First-linked rally last summer.

The 55-year-old, from Modred Street, Liverpool, faces two charges of using threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour at the Northern Ireland Against Terrorism Rally outside Belfast City Hall in August 2017.

He appeared before a sitting of Belfast Magistrates' Court on Tuesday.

Defence solicitor Darren Duncan requested a two-week adjournment. After the hearing, the lawyer confirmed to the court that his client would be pleading not guilty.

Rimmer is the third person charged in connection with the controversial demonstration.

Britain First leader Paul Golding, 35, and the group's deputy leader Jayda Fransen, 31, appeared at separate hearings earlier this month.

Fransen also faces four unrelated charges after alleged threatening behaviour concerning remarks which were made on December 13 beside a peace wall dividing Catholics from Protestants in Belfast.

The comments, about Islam, were posted on social media.

Rimmer was arrested as part of a joint operation involving detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) working with officers from Merseyside Police.

A PSNI detective constable told the court she believed she could connect him to the charge.

Grey-haired Rimmer, who wore a green overcoat and navy jumper, spoke only once during the brief hearing to confirm that he understood the charges against him.

His lawyer said he would be requesting legal aid.

"Despite having a small income, about £150 a week, this man also has to travel to and from Liverpool," added Mr Duncan.

The court was also told a transcript and video footage of the speech had been shown to Rimmer during police interviews.

Adjourning the case until January 31, District Judge Fiona Bagnall said the application for legal aid would be considered.

Britain First has gained increased prominence after 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 that it received hundreds of new membership applications and said its Facebook posts were reaching hundreds of thousands more users.

Neither Golding or Fransen were in Belfast present for the hearing.

Rimmer attempted to cover his face with a hood as he left the court alone. There were no supporters outside the Laganside building.

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