The BNP’s representative on the London Assembly is facing a six-month ban after he fabricated murder stories to increase fear of knife crime
Richard Barnbrook, who is accused of bringing the authority into disrepute, may become the first politician in its history to be suspended when the case is heard today. An independent investigation found that Mr Barnbrook’s comments on YouTube about non-existent murders had showed “wilful disregard for the truth”. He said that he had got his words “jumbled up”.
City Hall’s standards committee will consider a penalty for Mr Barnbrook, who was elected in May, after he was found to have brought both the London Assembly, and Barking and Dagenham Council, the East London authority to which he was elected in 2006, into disrepute. Their options range from forcing him to apologise, undertake a course or participate in conciliation, to suspending him from both authorities for up to six months.
Supporters of both the BNP and Unite Against Fascism, which campaigns against rightwing groups, are planning to attend the hearing. London Patriots, a fringe rightwing organisation, says it will bus supporters to City Hall, raising fears of clashes between the groups.
In a video, which was posted on YouTube in May last year, Mr Barnbrook said: “Three weeks ago, there was a murder of a young girl. We don’t know who’s done it, her girlfriend was attacked inside an educational institute. Again, two weeks ago there was another attack by knives on the streets of Barking and Dagenham where two people were murdered.”
The Metropolitan police confirmed that there had been no murders or serious incidents in the time period cited, and that murders in the area were actually decreasing.
During a joint investigation by the GLA and the council, Mr Barnbrook admitted to investigators that he was aware that his comments were inaccurate. He was accused of making up the murders because knife crime was an emotive issue in the capital at the time. Valerie Rush, a Labour cabinet member at Barking and Dagenham Council, who made a complaint about Mr Barnbrook, said he had “openly and outrageously” lied to “whip up fears in the London community”.
Mr Barnbrook has since changed his position and yesterday told The Times that his comments should be excused because he had dyslexia. He said that he was the subject of a witchhunt because he had “humiliated” Boris Johnson, and his Tory colleagues, by highlighting the issue of knife crime.
Referring to the “young girl” he had spoken about in the video, he said: “I said she was murdered in Barking, but I should have said she was from Barking. She was actually murdered in Newham. The two additional murders that I spoke about, I should have said attempted murders. We had done five takes of the video. Some of the words would have got jumbled up.”
He said that once he realised the video was incorrect, it was removed.
Mr Barnbrook had been the most senior elected member of the BNP until June, when its leader Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons were both voted into the European Parliament. His disciplinary hearing was scheduled for July but was delayed when he claimed stress-related illness and was signed off work for two weeks.