Neo-Nazi leader pleads guilty to attack on hikers

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A Melbourne neo-Nazi leader will avoid facing trial after pleading guilty to a violent attack on a group of hikers at a Victorian state park.

Thomas Sewell, 30, the self-proclaimed leader of the National Socialist Network, and co-offender Jacob Hersant, 24, fronted the County Court of Victoria via video link on Tuesday where they both pleaded guilty to a charge of violent disorder.

Thomas Sewell’s National Socialist Network at a gathering in the Grampians.

The pair had been due to face trial next week over an attack on three bushwalkers who had filmed Sewell and Hersant’s group as they gathered at the Cathedral Ranges State Park at Taggerty on May 8, 2021.

During an earlier hearing, the court heard that some members of the group were wearing balaclavas when the trio were set upon and terrorised at the Victorian camping spot, before demands were made for their mobile phones.

Police said one hiker crashed their car into a boulder in an attempt to get away.

When Sewell applied for bail over the matter in 2021, police told the court the 30-year-old publicly described himself as a “political soldier for the white race and Adolf Hitler is my leader”, that he adheres to neo-Nazi ideology and believes he is in a “race war”.

At the time of the violent disorder offence, Sewell was also on bail over an attack on a security guard outside the Channel Nine’s Docklands headquarters – which also houses The Age offices – ahead of an A Current Affair broadcast about his group in March 2021.

Sewell was later found guilty of that attack and placed on an 18-month community corrections order with 150 hours of community service.

Jacob Hersant.

County Court Judge Kellie Blair ordered both Sewell and Hersant undergo pre-sentence reports before returning to court in September.

Violent disorder carries a maximum sentence of six months’ jail.

Both men remain on bail.

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