Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Nick Griffin going to jail ? – That don’t impress me much !

I’m obliged to Becky Walker aka @CollectorManiac (blog at Socialism Of The Heart ) for directing me to this article on the Times website re. Nick Griffin : BNP crisis as Nick Griffin faces jail over whites-only policy with the tweet  : Nick Griffin may face jail – A story we can all enjoy.

However, much as I absolutely share her dislike for Nick Griffin and his revolting bunch of racist thugs, I didn’t really enjoy the story so much. Let me tell you why.

First of all the story’s not really acting on new news – it’s just pre-empting the deadlines set after the county court hearing in October, brought about by the action of the Equality & Human Rights Commission which set the BNP three months to amend it’s constitution so that it does not discriminate, either directly or indirectly on any ‘protected characteristic’ – for example on the grounds of race, ethnic or religious status – as defined in clause 4 of the Equality Bill” . The three months are up on Friday and the court hearing re-convenes on January 28th.

The article is therefore assuming that the BNP have taken no action, and will not before Friday – which is pure conjecture of course. I do however suspect that they may be right.

The article also has as it’s core subject, the possibility of the BNP leader being sent to prison. Well this would be extremely unlikely. I’m no legal expert, but I think that the County Court is a civil court – not a criminal court, and as such has no power to impose custodial sentences (can anyone confirm this ?) – of course failure to comply with the court’s instructions might – ultimately – lead to imprisonment.

Which brings me to my major difficulty with this story : If Nick Griffin were to be imprisoned it would be the biggest publicity coup they could ever have. Why ?  Well – how many of us here in our snug homes in Britain were rooting for Morgan Tsvangiri in Zimbabwe despite having only the vaguest notion of anything about him, other than that he’d been unfairly imprisoned ? Well I was for one. He was unfairly imprisoned – and if Nick Griffin were imprisoned over this issue that would be unfair too.

The Times article states : “Officials question whether the head of a political party who has been imprisoned, fined or has had his assets sequestrated could continue to be its leader” . We need only look as far as Nelson Mandela for an answer to that question. Mandela achieved near world-wide sainthood despite being twenty odd years behind bars as leader of the ANC.

Of course neither the EHRC, or the County Court are likely to be short-sighted enough to risk the martyrdom of the BNP leader, but articles like this one may already have done a lot of damage.

To understand why, one needs to consider the likely mindset of potential BNP voters. Just this morning for instance I saw a message posted on Facebook which read “Dave : thinks this is just hypochrocy (sic) this goverment sends our brave boys to their deaths ,yet stands by & lets islamic fanatics march, all for the asian vote.!!!!!!!!!!!”

A reference to the planned march by some Muslim group in Wootton Bassett. Now despite me giving him this link : PM strikes out at Wootton Bassett Islamic march plans , which sees Prime Minister Gordon Brown denounce the planned march in fairly stark terms : “it would be disgusting and offensive” he still believes that somehow the Government are encouraging Islamic extremists to march in areas sensitive to the memories of British soldiers killed in action. It’s not true – but the damage is done.

I know Dave and he’s not a bad man, but neither is he a big reader of the political press, and yes he is susceptible to the likes of the BNP. So when he sees the “tabloid-ed down” version of the Time’s story on Nick Griffin’s ‘possible’ imprisonment, probably reading it in The Sun in his tea-break, he won’t do any in depth critique or analysis – he’ll just assume that the Government are trying to put Nick Griffin in jail, and then when Nick Griffin starts making claims comparing himself with Nelson Mandela, and Gordon Brown with Robert Mugabe, there’s a fair chance he might believe him.

So this report didn’t cheer me up much.

At least I broke my blogging drought though !


January 10, 2010 - Posted by | blogs, fascism, politics, twitter | , , , , , , ,


  1. It’s theoretically possible Griffin could be jailed. The matter is before a Circuit Judge (HH Judge Paul Collins) and he has the jurisdiction (including of his own motion) to order a party committed for breach of an order of the Court.

    It isn’t going to happen here – if for no other reason that that Griffin can point to his scheduling the vote (I’m not clear whether Griffin is himself a party to the action; if he is, and the court has already found that he could make the change without waiting for the membership, that could alter the position) and suspending new memberships.

    The most likely outcome is that the Court will penalise the BNP (via costs) for not complying yet. It is possible that they will issue an “unless” order, stating that if the BNP (or possibly Griffin personally) will be subject to a penalty unless they have complied by a specific date.

    Comment by mtpt | January 11, 2010 | Reply

  2. Crown Courts have sentencing powers (its both a civil and criminal court). However, without checking first, I have no idea if the Equality Bill includes custodial sentences for offences of this sort. I can find out though, if you really want to know? 🙂

    Comment by Unqualified Law Bod | January 11, 2010 | Reply

  3. I know the county court can send you to jail they sent a little old lady to jail for four weeks not to long ago, for non payment of her council tax.

    Comment by Robert | January 11, 2010 | Reply

    • Do you have a source for that Robert ? It doesn’t sound too credible to me.

      Comment by northernheckler | January 11, 2010 | Reply

      • Here’s two recent articles on prison sentences for non–payment of Council Tax: – Birmingham mum-of-three avoids prison over unpaid council tax – Thousands face action over council tax

        Council Tax arrears are not a County Court matter, however – they are dealt with before the Magistrates Court.

        Unqualified Law Bod said above “Crown Courts have sentencing powers (its both a civil and criminal court).” This isn’t correct.

        The Crown Court is a criminal court – the successor of the old Assizes system – whereas the County Court is a civil court. They are entirely separate courts, with distinct jurisdictions, and (largely) separate judiciaries. The Magistrates Court is an inferior criminal court.

        It’s wrong to suggest that both courts have “sentencing powers”, since “sentence” suggests a penalty for a criminal offence. Civil courts can commit to prison, but this is to enforce, in extremis, compliance with their orders.

        I suspect the confusion arises from the fact that the Court Services often co-locates Crown and County Courts to reduce costs.

        Comment by mtpt | January 11, 2010

      • Your distinction between Crown Court & County court, and their respective sentencing powers is more or less what I understood it to be. I hadn’t in fact spotted that Unqualified Law bod had said “Crown Court” as opposed to “County Court” – quite a difference.

        I also spotted the Birmingham Mum of Three case – and note that she avoided prison, at the hands of a magistrates court.

        The Bradford T&A article is fascinating (and very recent) – none of them have yet gone to prison. Nor does it say which court they will be ‘dragged before’

        I find the most fascinating article I could find on Pensioners being sentenced to jail over council tax to be this one : which wasn’t perhaps quite as it seemed, according to the Times Again, she was sentenced by a magistrates court, not a county court

        Thanks for your comments

        Comment by northernheckler | January 11, 2010

      • Contrary to popular wisdom, Courts tend to try and avoid sending people to prison! This is one of the reasons the government has started introducing mandatory sentences – so that they can force judges to give custodial sentences.

        Comment by mtpt | January 12, 2010

  4. 5.Contrary to popular wisdom, Courts tend to try and avoid sending people to prison! This is one of the reasons the government has started introducing mandatory sentences – so that they can force judges to give custodial sentences.

    yes thats why the jails are empty.

    Comment by Robert | January 12, 2010 | Reply

    • Robert & mtpt
      Think we’re in danger of getting a bit off topic here.

      Think popular wisdom is that courts let people off with a slapped wrist unless they are little old ladies – Well that’s what it said in The Mail anyway. My personal experience (not that I’ve been in court or prison) is that they tend to avoid custodial sentences if at all possible – the exception being serious violent crimes – try hitting someone with a broken beer glass – you’ll like as not get 3 years for a first offence;

      Not sure why the government would want to force judges to give custodial sentences given the pressure on prison capacity and the cost of custodial sentences.

      One way or another I think we’ve established that Nick Griffin won’t be getting sent down any time soon.

      Comment by northernheckler | January 12, 2010 | Reply

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