Three charged with racial vilification in Bendigo make court appearance

Blair Cottrell and other members of the United Patriots Front outside court in Melbourne today. Picture: Paul Jeffers
Blair Cottrell and other members of the United Patriots Front outside court in Melbourne today. Picture: Paul Jeffers

THREE men charged under Victoria’s racial vilification laws for allegedly staging a mock beheading in Bendigo have appeared in court in Melbourne for a second time.

Blair Cottrell, 27, Neil Erikson, 32, and Christopher Shortis, 45, faced the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday where they were told the case would proceed despite their objections.

Facing court without legal representation, Cottrell said the case was weak and should be thrown out.

But the magistrate said it must go ahead, and it will return to court on September 4.

The three members of the United Patriots Front were charged under the racial vilification laws for beheading an effigy on the steps of the City of Greater Bendigo offices at the height of the anti-mosque protests in 2015.

The incident occurred on October 4.

They were also charged with defacing the footpath, and willful damage for causing $1100 to the footpath, wall and garden bed.

Erikson claimed Premier Daniel Andrews was behind the charges, and will attempt to subpoena the premier and Police Commissioner Graham Ashton to give evidence in the case.

“They have pushed for this case. I think it's a conspiracy against right-wing politics," he said.

Speaking outside of court, Shortis said the mock beheading was carried out because “Bendigo residents were concerned about Muslim immigration into this country”.

Chants of “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi” were heard outside court as heated exchanges erupted with anti-racism protesters and the media, while a flag of Donald Trump was also unfurled.

A man in the far-right group punched a camera operator in the stomach while another grabbed a protester's phone and threw it on the ground.

A number of people were ironically dressed as “patriots”, including members of the Million Flag Patriots.

Anti-racism protesters chanted “Muslims are welcome, racists are not”.

AAP