A former British National party candidate who stockpiled explosive chemicals and ball bearings in anticipation of a future civil war was today jailed for two and a half years.
As he has already spent nearly a year in custody, however, he is likely to be released within six months.
Robert Cottage, aged 49, from Colne, Lancashire, had pleaded guilty to possession of the chemicals. He was acquitted after two trials on charges of conspiracy to cause explosions.
Sentencing Cottage at Manchester’s crown square court, Mrs Justice Swift said he continued to hold views “that veer towards the apocalyptic”. She added that his actions had been “criminal and potentially dangerous” but said there was a low risk of his committing further offences.
“It is important to understand that Cottage’s intention was that if he ever had to use the thunder flashes, it was only for the purpose of deterrence,” Mrs Justice Swift said.
Cottage had believed that, as he saw it, “the evils of uncontrolled immigration” would lead to civil war, which would be imminent and inevitable, she said.
“The pre-sentence report says Cottage continues to hold views that veer towards the apocalyptic. The risk of further offending of the same type is low but it cannot be ruled out.”
The judge said she accepted that Cottage’s intention had been to hold on to the chemicals, which included ammonia, hydrogen peroxide and hydrochloric acid, until the outbreak of civil disturbance.
But she warned: “In letting off any such thunder flash, mistakenly believing you were under threat, you may have caused injury to some innocent person.”
Alistair Webster QC, Cottage’s counsel, told the court his client accepted that he had bought the potassium nitrate and sulphur with the intention of manufacturing gunpowder, but said this would have been used only to create thunder flash-style bangers to scare off intruders.;
Cottage, who stood three times unsuccessfully for the BNP in local council elections, was arrested last September after police found the stockpile of chemicals at his home in Talbot Street, Colne.
The police took action after Cottage’s wife told a social worker of her concerns about the items he was storing and, and about her husband’s stated belief that immigration was out of control.
Police also found ball bearings and a document about bomb-making from the do-it-yourself explosives-making manual The Anarchist Cookbook on his computer. He also had air pistols, crossbows and a stockpile of food.
“I believe it is everyone’s God-given right to defend themselves and their families if they are attacked,” Cottage told the court during his trial. “The breakdown of the financial system will inevitably put an unbearable strain on the social structures of this country.”
Cottage claimed in court that, with the armed forces in the Middle East and the police insufficiently trained, the authorities would be unable to offer people protection.
He added that immigration was a luxury that Britain could not afford, but that he drove a bus for children with disabilities and had a good relationship with the Asian children among them.
A second man, David Jackson, 62, a dentist, was also charged with conspiracy to cause explosions but was cleared after the jury twice failed to reach verdicts.
A BNP spokesman said after sentencing that the prosecution had been brought for political reasons. “We’re not condoning it, but it’s a quid pro quo to appease the Muslims,” said Dr Phil Edwards, of the BNP.
“To keep them quiet, we’ll snatch someone from white society. We certainly don’t support the bloke. We condemn all forms of violence … but I wouldn’t have thought you could do any harm with what he had.”
Dr Edwards said Cottage would not be standing as a candidate for the BNP again. “We never have anyone in the party with criminal convictions,” he said, because “lefties and people on your newspaper” would publicise the fact.