A protester who incited racial hatred during a series of city centre demonstrations in Sunderland has been convicted.
William Charlton, 55, spoke at a number of public rallies between November 2016 and July 2017 after a woman reported she had been raped in the city.
Attempting to disguise his personal agenda under a “cloak of respectability”, Charlton used the demonstrations to attack ethnic minority groups and immigrants with racial slurs and insults.
Charlton, known as Billy, denied five charges of inciting racial hatred but was today found guilty of all offences by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.
Chief Inspector Sam Rennison, of Northumbria Police, said Charlton’s actions were an attempt to fuel “hatred and unrest” in the city.
“Freedom of speech is an important element of modern society which we all advocate, but spreading hate and racism is totally unacceptable,” Ch Insp Rennison said.
“Billy Charlton attempted to disguise his racist agenda under a cloak of respectability by claiming to want to protect the women of Sunderland.
“He knowingly targeted a number of ethnic groups and immigrants at high-profile marches in the city centre, and in doing so, stirred up hatred.
"He then pushed that personal agenda further by circulating misinformation on social media for his own gain.
"However, today his calculated behaviour and attempts to spread hatred and unrest in our community have been laid bare.
“We must do all we can to stamp out racism and the spreading of hate. As a Force, we are committed to tackling all forms of extremism which has the potential to threaten the safety and security of the public.
“I am glad that the jury understood and recognised the seriousness of Charlton’s crimes, and he must now deal with the consequences of his actions.”
Charlton, of Byland Court, Washington, insisted throughout the three-week trial that he did not intend to stir up hate and is not racist.
He was remanded in custody following his conviction and is due to be sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court on Friday morning (September 27).