Stephen Lennon, the 30-year-old English Defence League’s (EDL) leader, has been jailed for 10 months after pleading guilty to using a friend’s passport to enter the US. At Southwark Crown Court, he admitted to charges of possession and improper intent, conflicting with the Identity Documents Act 2010.
In September, Lennon used the passport of Andrew McMaster to fly on Virgin Atlantic from Heathrow Airport to JFK Airport in New York. At Heathrow, he checked in on a kiosk and was allowed through when checked at the bag drop area. However, customs officials at JFK Airport realised he wasn’t McMaster when they took his fingerprints. He was instructed to stay at the airport for a second interview, but instead, he entered the US illegally. After just one night in New York, Lennon used his own passport, which uses the name Paul Harris, to fly back to the UK. He was subsequently arrested in October.
Prosecutor Simon Sandford said that this happened while Lennon on was bail for breaking an International Football Banning Order, which he was later acquitted for. He travelled from Heathrow to JFK using a passport under the name of a colleague. Upon arrival in New York, he told security officials that he was Andy McMaster but was found to be lying after fingerprints and photos were taken. After previously being refused entry into the UK for convictions, Lennon was told to go to a second security interview, which he didn’t report to. He then entered the country illegally and returned to the UK from Shannon Airport, using his own passport.
Defence lawyer Giles Cockings said that Lennon didn’t steal the passport and only used it for a single day. He also admitted to using someone else’s passport right away, which demonstrated some courage. Cockings noted that he believes his client’s intention was to avoid needing a visa to enter the US. After realising the offence he committed and that he wasn’t helping his situation, he returned to the UK with his own passport. In his opinion, this isn’t one of the worst passport offences.
Southwark Crown Court heard that the name Paul Harris appears on the passport belonging to the EDL leader, as he uses aliases. However, this is his only passport. It was also told of his previous jail time for an assault charge in 2005, as well as other convictions for public order and drugs offences.
Judge Alistair McCreath told Lennon during the sentencing that he would be sentenced under the name Stephen Lennon, but he suspects this isn’t his real name since it doesn’t appear on his passport. He continued that Lennon knew he wasn’t welcome in the US and that he had been refused entry in the past for his convictions. Andrew McMaster is said to have loaned him his passport, as they bear a resemblance, and this was used to gain entry to the US. However, after taking fingerprints, he was discovered by US officials but entered the country anyway. He’s sure Lennon then used his own passport to return home to avoid the consequences of being caught in the US.
McCreath added that, if UK authorities had known he was leaving under a false passport, he wouldn’t have been allowed to board the plane or allowed to leave the country. Lennon was then sentenced to jail for 10 months, minus the time he has already been in custody.