A teenager jailed for membership of the banned neo-Nazi terrorist group National Action (NA) has had his sentence halved by the Court of Appeal.
Connor Scothern, 19, was handed an 18-month term of detention in a Young Offenders’ Institution in June after a jury convicted the teenager of belonging to the extreme right-wing group.
The organisation, labelled “racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic” by then-home secretary Amber Rudd, was proscribed after a series of rallies and incidents, including praise of the murder of MP Jo Cox.
Following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court, Scothern was convicted alongside three others – former Miss Hitler beauty pageant contestant Alice Cutter, Mark Jones and Garry Jack – after all four denied membership of NA.
The prosecution told jurors Scothern, formerly of Bagnall Avenue, Arnold, was “one of the most active members of the group”, and “considered future leadership material”.
Another leading member of NA told the trial how Scothern had “driven himself into poverty” by travelling to member meetings as well as self-funding 1,500 stickers bearing Adolf Hitler’s image and calling for a “final solution” – in reference to the Nazis’ genocide of Jews.
Scothern was aged 15 and 16 when a member of the organisation in 2016 and 2017, but 19 at the time of sentencing.
At the Court of Appeal, his lawyers argued as he was sentenced after turning 18, Scothern would have to serve two-thirds of his sentence before being considered eligible for release by the Parole Board due to the nature of his offence.
They said if he had been sentenced for the same offence when he had committed it as a youth, the only possible custodial sentence would have been a youth detention and training order, where an 18-month order would have resulted in nine months’ detention before being released under supervision.
His lawyers, therefore, argued the original sentence should not have exceeded nine months in a Young Offenders’ Institution and “was not only wrong in principle but was also unlawful”.
They also argued factors mitigating Scothern’s offence were also not adequately taken into account at the original sentencing.
In a judgment handed down on Friday, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker quashed the original 18-month sentence, replacing it with a sentence of nine months’ detention in a Young Offenders’ Institution.
Mr Justice Baker dismissed the argument that Scothern’s mitigation was not appropriately taken into account, noting the sentencing judge had accepted Scothern’s lack of maturity and a degree of social isolation and had no previous convictions.
The judge, sitting with Lord Justice Dingemans and Judge Paul Sloan QC, said that aside from the point of law regarding Scothern’s age at sentencing, “there could have been no criticism of the sentence imposed upon the appellant”.
He also said he was “sceptical” of Scothern’s claim he had begun to lose interest in NA prior to it being proscribed, which was accepted in the teenager’s favour during his original sentencing.