A former British National party candidate who stockpiled explosive chemicals and ball-bearings in anticipation of a future civil war was jailed for 2½ years yesterday. Robert Cottage, 49, of Colne, Lancashire, pleaded guilty to possession of the chemicals. He was cleared of conspiracy to cause explosions after two trials in which juries were unable to reach a verdict. As he has spent nearly a year in custody, he is likely to be released within six months.
Sentencing Cottage at Manchester crown court yesterday, Mrs Justice Swift said he held views “that veer towards the apocalyptic”. His actions had been “criminal and potentially dangerous” but there was a low risk of him 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,” said the judge of the explosives he planned to make.
Alistair Webster QC, Cottage’s counsel, told the court his client accepted he had bought the potassium nitrate and sulphur planning to manufacture gunpowder, but said this would only be used to make thunder flash “bangers” to scare 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 Colne.
Cottage’s wife told a social worker of her concerns about his behaviour and his belief that immigration was out of control. Police also found ball-bearings and a document about bomb making from The Anarchist’s Cookbook on his computer. He also had air pistols, crossbows and a stockpile of food.
Dave Williams of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, which monitors the BNP, said the sentence appeared lenient. “It is a damning verdict for the BNP,” he said. “The trial has shown his radicalisation through his local branch of the BNP. I am surprised the sentence is not stiffer. If this had been a group of Muslims, they would have been looking at a far longer sentence.”
A BNP spokesman said 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 Phil Edwards of the BNP yesterday. “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.”