Billy Charlton found guilty of sharing illegal image of child performing a sex act with animal on WhatsApp
A hate speaker who was jailed over a series of public protests has been convicted of distributing an illegal image of a child performing a sex act with an animal over WhatsApp.
William Charlton, known as Billy, was locked up for 21 months in 2019 over speeches he gave at a series of planned demonstrations in Sunderland.
Charlton was convicted of five offences of stirring up racial hatred at five marches between September 2016 and July 2017 and was given a prison sentence in September 2019.
But by that time, police had already seized his phone after a video had been found, that he had sent to another man who had been arrested for an unrelated matter, which featured a child engaged in a sex act with an animal.
Charlton was tried by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court this week accused of sending the video clip to over 40 of his contacts over WhatsApp in June 2018.
The 57-year-old insisted he did not view the 18-second video, which featured a boy aged between 10-14 with the animal, before he forwarded it on and had no reason to suspect its contents were illegal.
Giving evidence from the witness box, Charlton told jurors he would regularly receive and send “daft jokes” over the messaging app on his phone and did not always watch them.
He added: “It was just daft joke messages, things like that, you know what I mean.
“I would just forward them on, not even thinking about it most of the time.”
Charlton insisted he had not watched the video featuring the donkey and child, that he had received from someone else.
He added: “It wasn’t something I would expect from him.
“He knows if he sent me images of children I would kick off with him, as I would anyone else.”
Charlton told jurors he is a “proud father and grandfather” and would receive and send messages thinking they were “daft jokes”.
He added: “Now, being branded a paedo over a stupid video I’ve never even seen, I would tell all my friends and family, get off it all.
“If you send something and you are not aware of it, you could be sitting here.”
He added: “I swear I’ve never seen it.”
Charlton, formerly of Seaham but now of Sidmouth Road, Gateshead, denied making an indecent photograph of a child and distributing an indecent photograph of a child.
The charge of making an indecent photograph of a child was withdrawn from the jury’s considerations but they found him guilty of distributing the image.
The court heard Charlton has already admitted possessing extreme pornography in relation to an image involving an adult engaging in sexual activity with an animal.
He has also pleaded guilty to another offence of “showing an act resulting or likely to result in serious injury”, again involving an adult, which were also on his phone.
Charlton will be sentenced on September 16 and has been granted bail in the meantime.
Judge Sarah Mallett said it was an “unusual” case but warned: “The sentence is not necessarily going to be of a duration that could be suspended.”
Christopher Rose, defending, urged the judge to consider a community-based sentence and added: “Even on the Crown’s case, it didn’t suggest Mr Charlton was a person doing this for a sexual interest in children.
“It is, on the evidence, quite clear that that wasn’t his reason and motivation for forwarding on this WhatsApp message.”