A leading figure in Patriotic Alternative Scotland has expressed support for a man who pleaded guilty to terrorism offences and urged members of the far right group to write to him in prison.
Kenny Smith, a former member of the British National Party who is national administration officer with Patriotic Alternative Scotland (PA), voiced support for Kristofer Thomas Kearney who admitted to sharing terrorist materials with his followers.
Critics of PA condemned its support for Kearney and accused the group of providing a “safe space” for “reactionary, hateful and disgraceful voices”. PA claimed Kearney is a “victim” of “counter terror policing” in the UK.
Kearney – better known as Kris Kearns – pleaded guilty this month to two offences of disseminating terrorist publications and could face up to 15 years in prison.
An activist with PA, Kearney is an alleged former member of the banned terrorist group, National Action.
The Ferret previously revealed Kearney has links to PA Scotland and hosted a podcast for the group alongside its Scotland organisers, West Lothian-based Simon Crane, and Smith, who lives in Skye.
The Ferret learned that Smith posted Kearney’s prison address in a private PA group on Telegram last September after he’d been extradited from Spain, and asked members to write to him.
The private Telegram group is only open to people who have undergone a vetting process by PA which includes a home visit.
A source claimed Smith holds Kearney in “high regard” and that PA officials had written to him in prison.
Kearney, 38, is originally from Liverpool but was based in Alicante before he was extradited from Spain to face charges last September.
Known online as Charlie Big Potatoes, he pleaded guilty to two offences of disseminating terrorist publications and is thought to be the first member of Patriotic Alternative to be convicted of terrorist offences.
The offences related to two Telegram posts in 2021 which disseminated dozens of documents glorifying and encouraging extreme right-wing terror attacks.
Kearney posted a numbered list and links to some 89 extreme right wing documents.
Among them were the manifestos of a man who murdered 77 people in Norway, and that of another, who killed 51 people at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Two other far right extremist manifestos shared by Kearney related to a man who committed mass murder at a Texas supermarket, and another man who shot people at a Californian synagogue in 2019.
Kearney’s motivation in making the terrorist material available was said to be in the context of his racist ideology and support for PA, whose policies include deporting non-whites.
Kearney entered his guilty plea at London’s Old Bailey by video link from Chelmsford prison, according to a report by the Press Association news agency.
Ged O’Connor, defending, told the court Kearney’s pleas were on the basis he was “reckless” as to whether the effect of his conduct was to encourage terrorism.
Judge Richard Marks KC said the issue of Kearney’s motivation would be decided at a two-day hearing on 4 and 5 May 2023 before he passes sentence.
The Ferret asked PA what its official view of Kearns was now following his guilty plea, and if Smith regretted urging PA members to write to him last September.
PA’s Simon Crane replied: “Kenny Smith knows Kris Kearney is the victim of the states (sic) misdirected over-focus on the nationalist community when it comes to counter terror policing as was exposed by the William Shawcross review and continues to urge people to write to him and keep his spirits up. The home secretary has promised an overhaul.”
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said that for an organisation to “apparently encourage” its members to write letters of support to a suspect charged with terrorism offences “is telling”. They added: “Barely a month goes by without Patriotic Alternative proving again and again that it deserves the abominable reputation that it has in decent society.”
Maggie Chapman MSP, of the Scottish Greens, said: “Resurgent and active far right groups are a danger to all of us, but particularly to the often very vulnerable communities that they target. We all need to stand in solidarity against them and the vile bigotry and division that they represent.
“Whether it is the racist rallies we have seen in Erskine or the recruitment they are doing online, groups like Patriotic Alternative have no place in a progressive Scotland.”
The Ferret previously reported Kearney’s apparent aspirations for PA, which emerged in a leaked voice recording.
“I want a cult,” said Kearney. “I want fanatics, people who are willing to die for this cause. That’s the level of commitment I want and expect… We want a hardcore group of people who know exactly what they want. It’s that simple.”