BNP escapes costly court ruling

JUDGES have ruled that senior BNP party chiefs should not be punished for contempt after failing to remove potentially racist rules from its constitution.

Senior members of the far-right, anti-immigration British National Party have escaped contempt of court proceedings at the High Court in London today.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission brought the case against chairman of the party Nick Griffin, deputy chair Simon Darby and party officer Tanya Lumby, because of a potentially racist clause in the party constitution.

It then ordered the BNP to remove the clause which banned non-white people from joining the organisation.

When the constitution was redrafted in March a judge found that it was still indirectly discriminatory because it required applicants to oppose “any form of integration or assimilation of ... the indigenous British”.

Prospective members would also need to undergo a two-hour vetting system.

Robin Allen QC, for the watchdog, accused the BNP of “playing with” the commission and its officials instead of obeying the judgment.

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The equalities watchdog asked two judges sitting at London’s High Court to fine Griffin, Darby and Lumby or to seize party assets.

But today, Lord Justice Moore-Bick and Mr Justice Ramsey, decided not to take action against the party because it was not clear if the rules applied only to prospective members or to those already admitted into the party.

Griffin said: “The High Court has confirmed that the BNP has acted within the law. We are a legal and legitimate political party which is entitled to organise and campaign for the fair treatment and equality of all the British people.”

However, the EHRC’s John Wadham said that this ruling made no difference to the substance of the Commission’s action against the BNP. He added: “The County Court ruled that the BNP’s constitution was racially discriminatory. That ruling remains in place and has now, finally, been obeyed by the BNP.”

The BNP was wiped out in the borough during the last elections after it managed to gain eleven council seats in 2006.

Nick Griffin’s unsuccessful bid to unseat Labour’s Barking MP Margaret Hodge in May was highlighted on national television in the documentary The Battle for Barking last month.