Nick Griffin could have his assets seized if high court rules that leader breached order to amend party's constitution
Fresh from its disastrous showing at the ballot box on 6 May, the British National party now faces financial turmoil with its assets threatened by court action. The high court is to decide whether Nick Griffin and two other BNP officials should face contempt of court proceedings in which their assets could be confiscated under a "writ of sequestration". The assets include Griffin's MEP salary, investments and pensions and any property that they might own. The case shows that no political party is above the law.
The contempt proceedings were brought by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) after the BNP was accused of failing to remove potentially racist clauses from its constitution. The BNP had been in breach of the Race Relations Act 1976 by admitting only white people to the party, but it revised its constitution in February to say it would allow people of any descent or origin to join, but only if the individual "agrees with or supports or does not oppose or does not disagree with the principles of our party".
However, the principles of the party in this amended constitution are still in terms of promoting indigenous over non-indigenous interests, including maintaining the "integrity of the indigenous British" and "restoring and maintaining" the indigenous British as "an overwhelming majority" (indigenous being defined by those that settled in these islands between 11500BC and 6 July 1189).
It is not difficult to see how this is contrary to the Race Relations Act 1976, because by signing up to the principles, any non-indigenous member would have to give up their racial and cultural identity. The BNP has also not changed its rule preventing new members from attending any party meeting until they have been interviewed by two BNP officials. A court in March ruled that this was intimidatory and directed against non-indigenous applicants.
If the high court rules that the BNP is in breach of the March order and gives permission to the EHRC to issue the writ, then it will appoint four commissioners. Two to three of the commissioners will be "authorised and commanded" to take possession of the BNP's assets. These assets will be kept in the hands of the commissioners until the BNP complies with the order to make its constitution free of racial discrimination.
Not only would this be a bitter pill for the BNP to swallow ideologically, it would also be financially punitive. A commissioner can cost up to £1,000 a day, and if the BNP has its assets confiscated, it will cost them up to £3,000 a day for those assets to be held. The BNP faces a period of financial turmoil.
Ed Williams is a barrister at Cloisters Chambers