Indymedia is yet again facing legal threats to prevent the free flow of communication, this time from a political movement known for its hostility to free speech. On the 21st November 08 Indymedia UK received an email from someone claiming to be a legal representative for the British National Party, threatening to take legal action on a number of counts for publishing information on BNP members.
After the hilarity of the “little Fuhrer”, Nick Griffin, running to the safety of the Human Rights Act to try to prevent the publication of members’ details, Britain’s fascist party has resorted to threats.
The letter sent to Indymedia by Lee John Barnes LLB (hons), from the “BNP Legal Affairs Unit”, threatens to take legal action, on the basis of theft, data protection and contempt of court, unless the list of members is removed.
The “lawyer” also attempts to shoehorn his charges into the form of anti-terrorism legislation, “The use of this information we feel is being hosted on your site for use only to incite acts of harassment, incite violence and direct targeted attacks against our members in the Leeds area”. He then goes on to explain the sections of the Terrorism Act under which Indymedia would be charged.
Indymedia rejects any accusation that the information could be used to incite violence and has strived to remove any comments that may be seen as incitement. One volunteer explains that there are many legitimate uses for the information, “for individuals to be able to check that their doctor, teacher, nurse etc. isn't a member of the BNP, for example”.
Indeed, Merseyside Police has already used the information in such a way to dismiss an officer, PC Steve Bettley, who has been exposed as a member. A spokesperson for the police said: “Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe has reiterated our position that membership of the British National Party is totally incompatible with the duties and values of Merseyside Police”.
Most incredibly Mr Barnes then explains, “I will also be issuing a request to our internal investigations team to initiate actions to collect your home addresses, contact details and financial details relating to you personally as persons running or hosting the Indymedia website”. Internal Investigations? Once the BNP has this information, it “will be used to initiate legal actions upon yourselves, to initiate financial sanctions against your company and also will be publicised on various websites so that people may contact you and address any legal issues they may have”. Pot, kettle, black?
Indymedia’s legal volunteers have been somewhat baffled by Mr Barnes’s email. One volunteer explains, "the BNP has been terrified by the fact that its members are being outed. You might expect these mouthy nationalists to wear their membership with pride, but this email exposes the BNP yet again as a bunch of cowardly thugs, utterly incoherent and amateurish."
Indeed, it seems to Indymedia that the BNP’s “Legal Affairs Unit” is about as impressive on law as its Policy Unit is on policy. Mr Barnes – now Director of the unit – proudly displays his incompetence in noting that the list of ALL members in the country leaves room for concern only for “our members in the Leeds area”.
The references to the Terrorism Act were described by Indymedia Legal as “plain stoooopid”, and it is doubtful that any qualified legal practitioner would make such claims. The threat may have joined the growing list of worrying misapplications of the Terrorism Act had it not been so laughable.
Mr Barnes’s threat to post personal information about Indymedia participants may in itself be illegal – it certainly would cause a registered legal practitioner to lose his credentials. Perhaps then, it comes as no surprise that the Law Society confirms that Barnes is NOT a qualified lawyer at all.
In fact, Mr Lee John Barnes LLB (hons) is an incoherent, buffoonish windbag who could well be charged with incitement himself.
Believe it or not, Mr Barnes lists his favourite music as Morrisey, Sinatra, Manic Street Preachers, Public Enemy and the Sex Pistols! But then fascists have always tended to like self-flagellation (for those of you unfamiliar, the bands range from the left to the far left).
If that weren’t enough, Mr Barnes’s mysticism should impress. In Mr Barnes’s fantasy world, he hails from “The Barnes Clan”, which “are of the Bjeorn bloodline - Bjorn meaning bear was changed to Barnes - and this is the surname of those that were once the Berserkers - the bodyguards of Norse kings and the fiercest men in battle”. Yes, indeed.
Such is Mr Barnes’s buffoonery, there are now whole web sites dedicated to “all things that are John Lee Barnes LLB (hons)” and to particular instances of his many gaffes.
More sinister material can be found elsewhere. Particularly disturbing is Barnes’s claim that, “This is not a game we are playing, this is a war and in times of war unquestionable obedience and loyalty to the commander in the field must come first, The 'First Law Of Nationalism' is - If you work with the enemy, then you are the enemy.”
imc uk legal