Posted on November 10, 2006

BNP Leader Cleared of Race Hate

BBC News, Nov. 10, 2006

BNP leader Nick Griffin and party activist Mark Collett have been cleared of inciting racial hatred after a retrial at Leeds Crown Court.

Mr Griffin, 46, from Powys, Wales, had denied two charges of using words or behaviour intended to stir up racial hatred in a speech in Keighley.

Mr Collett, 26, of Leicestershire, was cleared of four similar charges.

Chancellor Gordon Brown has told the BBC race laws may have to be revised in light of the acquittal.

Mr Griffin and Mr Collett were charged in April 2005 after the BBC showed a secretly-filmed documentary The Secret Agent in 2004.

The party leader smiled and nodded as the foreman of the jury read out the unanimous not guilty verdict.

Outside court, Mr Griffin and Mr Collett were greeted with chants of “freedom” by about 200 supporters, some of whom waved the union flag.

A small number of anti-fascist protesters shouted as Mr Griffin addressed the crowd on a megaphone.

He said: “What has just happened shows Tony Blair and the government toadies at the BBC that they can take our taxes but they cannot take our hearts, they cannot take our tongues and they cannot take our freedom.”

Mr Griffin said his co-defendant had worked “incredibly hard” for the BNP but had been living under the threat of a prison sentence since the age of 23.

BBC ‘cockroaches’

Mr Collett, the party’s head of the publicity, said: “This is the BNP — two, BBC — nil.”

He branded the BBC “cockroaches” and added: “The BBC have abused their position.

“They are a politically correct, politically biased organisation which has wasted licence-fee payers’ money to bring two people in a legal, democratic, peaceful party to court over speaking nothing more than the truth.”

In a statement, the BBC said its job was to bring matters of public interest to general attention.

“In this case the matters raised in The Secret Agent were seen by a large section of the public and caused widespread concern,” the statement read.

“The BBC has an important role in doing this.

“However, the question of whether criminal offences have been committed is of course a matter for the police, prosecuting authorities and the courts and not for the BBC.”

‘Divide society’

Speaking to the BBC after the acquittal, Chancellor Gordon Brown said race laws may have to be tightened.

He said: “I think any preaching of religious or racial hatred will offend mainstream opinion in this country and I think we’ve got to do whatever we can to root it out from whatever quarter it comes.

“And if that means we’ve got to look at the laws again I think we will have to do so”.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it was satisfied there had been sufficient evidence for a “realistic prospect of conviction” and it had been in the public interest to proceed.

During the trial, the jury heard extracts from a speech Mr Griffin made in the Reservoir Tavern in Keighley, on 19 January 2004, in which he described Islam as a “wicked, vicious faith” and said Muslims were turning Britain into a “multi-racial hell hole”.

At the same event, Mr Collett addressed the audience by saying: “Let’s show these ethnics the door in 2004.”

In his closing argument, Nick Griffin’s barrister said his client’s words were part of a “campaign speech of an official and legitimate party”.

Nick Griffin, the leader of the far-right British National Party, has declared a victory against the Government and the political establishment after he was cleared by a jury of stirring up racial hatred.

An all-white jury took five hours to clear Mr Griffin and BNP activist Mark Collett of stirring up racial hatred in a series of speeches in Keighley, West Yorkshire, in 2004.

The speeches were filmed by a BBC undercover reporter at BNP meetings in pubs in the town.

The Crown Prosecution Service defended its decision to prosecute which was taken only after the Attorney General gave the go ahead.

Chancellor Gordon Brown said race laws might have to be revised in the wake of the verdict.

Griffin denied comments were intended to stir up hatred

“Mainstream opinion in this country will be offended by some of the statements that they have heard made.

“At the same time, of course, the courts make their judgments on these things.

“But if there is something that needs to be done to look at the law then I think we will have to do that,” he said.

The verdicts came after the two men were tried for the second time at Leeds Crown Court.

Earlier this year, Mr Griffin and Mr Collett, 26, were cleared of a series of similar charges but a jury failed to reach verdicts on others.

Mr Griffin, a 47-year-old Cambridge graduate, sprayed champagne as he was greeted by jubilant supporters outside court.

He said: “We have shown Tony Blair, the Government and the BBC, they can take our taxes but they cannot take our hearts, they cannot take our tongues and they cannot take our freedom.”

A large contingent of police kept the rival demonstrations apart.