A neo-Nazi convicted of various racist hate crime offences is due for sentencing at Portsmouth Crown Court on May 14 following a lengthy investigation by Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE).
Tobias Powell, 32, from Wythering Close in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, appeared at Worthing Magistrates Court on April 16 and was found guilty of four counts using threatening, abusive or insulting words to stir up racial hatred, contravening section 19 (1) of the Public Order Act 1986.
On Twitter, between July 31, 2018, and October 8, 2018, Powell spread racist messages calling for violent civil war, used white supremacist talking points, and supported the banned neo-Nazi terror group National Action.
They also posted a photo of their Nazi tattoo, according to the CTPSE press release.
When CTPSE officers searched the address of Tobias Powell on December 13, 2019, they seized white supremacist literature and various electronic devices – Powell had used Adolf Hitler as his Apple ID name.
Weeks after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a neo-Nazi terrorist in June 2016, Powell tweeted that the late MP was an “enemy of the people”.
The CTPSE press release also reveals that Powell emailed the-then prime minister Theresa May, referring to her as a ‘snake’ in an email with ‘Brexit stitch-up’ in the subject line. A letter sent to Powell’s local MP Nick Gibbs referenced Sharia law.
The conviction generated various questionable headlines, however. The Chichester Observer headlined its coverage “Bognor Regis man with Nazi tattoo convicted over string of hate crimes” as Planet Radio headlined their coverage: “Bognor man convicted of hate crimes over racist social media tweets”.
The Telegraph referred to Powell as a “Far right extremist” in its headline and as a “far right sympathiser” in the article’s opening sentence.
In contrast, the MailOnline dropped its original headline, “far-right sympathiser who called for convicted of hate crime”, to a more accurate version, which now reads: “Nazi-tattooed far-right thug, 32, who called for a race war and had Apple ID under Adolf Hitler’s name faces jail”.
The original headline still appears on social media image crawls, as the original URL string reads “Far-right-sympathiser-32-called-race-war-convicted-hate-crime-offences.html”.
The Argus newspaper, in contrast, correctly headlined their story, “Bognor Neo Nazi Tobias Powell admits racist hate crimes”.
Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes, Head of CTPSE, said: Whilst this was not a terrorism case, the nature of the rhetoric Powell had shared on social media, meant that it was only right for specialist officers from Counter Terrorism Policing to conduct a thorough investigation.
“We know there is a fine line between hate speech and terrorism. Showing support for terrorist organisations is not acceptable and if you do that, you should expect to be investigated by us.”
Chief Inspector Jon Carter, Arun and Chichester District Commander for Sussex Police, said: “This case shows the importance of thorough investigation of any use of the Internet to spread hate and dangerous material,” adding that Powell posed no risk to the local community.