EDL leader sentenced for headbutting fellow protester
Stephen Lennon given 12-week term suspended for 12 months for common assault and judge rejects asbo application
3 November 2011
The leader of the far-right English Defence League has been given a suspended jail sentence after he assaulted one of the group's members at a rally.
Stephen Lennon, 28, from Luton, was given a 12-week term, suspended for 12 months, at Preston magistrates court.
At a day-long trial, the court heard that Lennon launched a tirade against Alan McKee, 33, calling him a "degenerate mug", at a rally in Blackburn in April.
McKee later confronted Lennon, who stepped forward and headbutted him.
McKee refused to give evidence against Lennon, but the court heard from two police officers who said they clearly saw the incident.
An attempt to prevent Lennon from organising or attending rallies outside Bedfordshire was rejected by the district judge Peter Ward at the sentencing hearing.
The CPS and Lancashire constabulary jointly applied for an anti-social behaviour order against Lennon that would have effectively prevented him from involvement in the EDL. But Lennon's legal representatives said an asbo would be "disproportionate" and claimed the police were "desperate to stop him being involved with the EDL at all costs".
Outside the court, Lennon said: "This was an attempt to silence me and take away my democratic rights. I respect the judge for this decision. If the asbo had been imposed, it would have meant me going to jail. I would have broken it and broken it."
Lennon was warned he would be brought back before the courts if he committed another offence within 12 months. He will be required to perform 150 hours of unpaid work for the common assault conviction and pay £200 costs.
Thirteen arrests were made at the Blackburn rally, which cost £500,000 to police. The court heard that Lennon had been in charge of, or assisted in the control of, 70 such demonstrations nationwide.