Leader Of English Defence League Facing Jail For Blackburn Assault

The leader of the English Defence League is facing a possible jail sentence after being convicted of assault at a rally in Lancashire.

Stephen Lennon launched a verbal attack on a fellow member of the far-right group before headbutting his victim, Preston Magistrates' Court heard.

Lennon, 28, founder of the EDL, ``goaded'' a crowd of followers during a rally by 2,000 supporters in Blackburn on April 2.

Lennon, from Luton, Bedfordshire, launched a tirade against a man, who was accused of putting messages on the internet about police informers and ``grasses'', before trouble broke out in the crowd among EDL members, the court heard.

Alan McKee, 33, from Gateshead, was pulled from the crowd by stewards for his own safety and taken away by police officers. But the court heard he later confronted Lennon about his speech as the rally continued with other speakers.

Lennon, who was surrounded by his own security guards and EDL stewards, then lunged or stepped forward and headbutted Mr McKee. Lennon denied assault.

The court heard from two police officers, Pc Paul Green and Pc Andrew Sumner, who told the court they were on hand when the incident happened. Both maintained they clearly saw Lennon headbutt Mr McKee.

After a day-long trial District Judge Peter Ward said he believed the police officers and convicted Lennon of common assault.

Judge Ward told Lennon he wanted a probation report before passing sentence. ``I don't think one can rule out a custodial sentence,'' he added, ``but at the same time I'm keeping it open in light of the report and what is said to the court next time.''

Sentencing was adjourned until November 3 when police will apply for a criminal Asbo (Anti-social behaviour order) to prevent Lennon attending EDL rallies.