Two Kent schoolboys may become the latest to face prosecution in relation to their connection with UK-based, far-right terrorist organization National Action.
The 15-year-olds were arrested at their home addresses in Ramsgate yesterday and are currently being held under section 41 of the UK’s Terrorism Act, on suspicion of preparing for terrorist acts.
But the father of one of the alleged National Action members, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has hit out at counter-terrorism officers, telling a local Kent newspaper that his son has been arrested for making ‘stupid jokes’ online.
Are Banned Neo Nazi Group National Action A Terrorist Organization?
Under UK law National Action was proscribed as a terrorist organization in 2016, which means that if the two boys are found to belong to the banned group, they could face a possible custodial sentence, even if they weren’t personally plotting terrorist acts.
Earlier this month police made five arrests in the West Midlands of other suspected National Action members, and a number of senior National Action members are currently serving sentences for terrorism offences.
In July this year, the group’s leader Christopher Lythgoe, was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for his membership of the banned group, but was acquitted of encouraging a fellow National Action member to murder a UK member of parliament and a female police officer.
Jack Renshaw, who briefly achieved viral notoriety for his far-right activism as a teenage member of the British National Party before defecting to National Action, plead guilty to plotting the murder of MP Rosie Cooper and making threats to kill a police officer in a trial at the Old Bailey last June.
Who Is Behind Banned Far-Right Terror Group National Action?
National Action was set up in 2013 by Essex University politics graduate and former double-glazing salesman Benjamin Raymond, with his friend Alex Davies.
Both founding members had previously been involved in other fringe far-right political movements, but had grown disillusioned with traditional far-right politics in the UK.
Hoping to attract a better-educated membership than the stereotypical street-fighting skinheads of National Front era far-right British politics, National Action focused recruitment on university campuses and quickly established an online presence.
Neighbors of Benjamin Raymond growing up, recall a young teen morbidly obsessed with Hitler, who would go door to door dressed in Nazi regalia.
Raymond’s Spanish-born father died when the future far-right activist was still a young child, and his relationship with his stepfather was said to be strained. Other family members have also alleged Raymond’s mother was an alcoholic, whose heavy drinking was a burden to her troubled young son. Raymond’s mother has since died.
Despite his early fascination with Hitler, Benjamin Raymond claimed his inspiration for the group was taken from second-string fascist figures, including the Spanish Falangists and British Union of Fascists leader, Oswald Mosley.
National Action is notable for its virulent antisemitism and homophobia, at a time when other far-right organisations in Britain were attempting to rebrand the movement, by downplaying its historic associations with anti-gay and anti-Jewish violence, towards a focus on anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim politics.
Why Are National Action Banned In The UK?
National Action was banned in the aftermath of the June 2016 murder of Labour Party MP Jo Cox, by a mentally ill, far-right sympathizer Thomas Mair.
Mair was not known to be a member of National Action, but the group tweeted their support for the murderer in the wake of the killing, urging followers not to “let this man’s sacrifice go in vain”.
In court Mr. Maid repeated the National Action slogan “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”.
Under the terms of Terrorism Act 2000, the UK Home Secretary can ban an organization if it is ‘concerned in terrorism’ – either carrying out terrorist acts or supporting those who do – and if banning the group is judged to be proportionate to the risk it poses, either in the UK or to British nationals overseas.
Once a group has been proscribed as a terrorist organization it becomes a criminal offence to belong to the group or to support the group’s activities, for example by providing resources to the banned group or helping to arrange meetings that further the banned group’s aims.
In December 2016 National Action became the first far-right group to be banned under an amendment to the Terrorism Act, which came into force in earlier that year.
Police and prison service staff were already forbidden from joining certain far-right racist groups, but this was the first time a domestic, far-right group had been judged by the Home Secretary to meet the criteria for prescription.
The then Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, described National Action as “a racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic organisation”, after the organization had repeatedly expressed their support for terrorists such as Anders Brevik, and called for violence against UK politicians and police officers.