The British National Party’s legal officer Lee Barnes (left)has resigned, citing a list of complaints including an allegation of potential fraud against the party leader Nick Griffin and his right-hand man, the convicted criminal Jim Dowson.
His resignation comes on the last day for receipt of nominations for Eddy Butler’s leadership challenge against Griffin and follows suspensions of several of Butler’s supporters. Butler needs the signatures of 840 people with at least 24 calendar months’ membership of the fascist party for an election for chairman to go ahead, but the support of suspended members will not count.
Barnes, who has a degree in law but is not a practising solicitor or barrister, has joined a growing list of BNP members who oppose the takeover of the party by Dowson, who is not even a member. “Jim Dowson now controls the BNP membership database, the BNP donor database, the BNP treasury department, the BNP subscriptions operation, the BNP media & communications operation and the BNP website,” writes Barnes in his long letter of resignation, which is free of his usual inane and extremist ranting. “This is completely unacceptable and legally questionable.”
Pointing out that Griffin does not have the power to move party assets into the hands of a non-member, he declares: “If party assets have been moved out of the party and into companies owned by Jim Dowson by Nick Griffin then this is potentially defined as ‘Fraud by abuse of position’ and is defined by Section 4 of the Fraud Act 2006. This is such a case where a person occupies a position where they are expected to safeguard the financial interests of another person such as BNP members, and abuses that position; this includes cases where the abuse consisted of an omission rather than an overt act.
“In such cases of potential fraud, it requires that for an offence to have occurred, the person must have acted dishonestly, and that they had to have acted with the intent of making a gain for themselves or anyone else, or inflicting a loss (or a risk of loss) on another. The fact that such issues may have potentially arisen means the party is at serious risk of investigation and prosecution,” says Barnes.
Barnes is also incensed at the party’s failure to investigate allegations by Shelley Rose, a young activist, that Dowson sexually assaulted her when they were away on party business and Dowson allegedly failed to book a separate hotel room for her. Barnes says he called on Griffin to initiate a “full and transparent investigation”, but Griffin ignored him.
“The BNP cannot ever be seen as a party that protects perverts or a party that refuses to address allegations of such a serious nature from a female member,” asserts Barnes.
“If Jim Dowson was found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute, Gross Misconduct and sexual assault,” continues Barnes, “then he should have been dismissed and sacked from all party offices he holds.
“Instead what has happened is that Shelley Rose has been suspended, no investigation has been initiated and no sanction applied against Jim Dowson.”
Barnes accuses Griffin and Dowson of repeatedly breaking “the most obvious of laws”, resulting in “hundreds of thousands of pounds … squandered on avoidable court cases”. As well as the matters often mentioned by Butler – the use of the Marmite image, the Equalities Commission action and the unlawful dismissal from employment of Michaela Mackenzie – he reveals that the unlawful use of stock images from a photoshop company during the European election also resulted in legal action against the party.
Showing his displeasure at being sidelined by Griffin, he complains that: “Legal issues that were once dealt with internally within the party have been ‘outsourced’ from the party to individuals paid by Jim Dowson and Nick Griffin, resulting in the parties internal legal affairs no longer being scrutinised or run by the BNP Legal Unit,” which he headed.
Like others, Barnes has been threatened with violence by Dowson, whom he accuses of being “a convicted criminal, with links to Loyalist terrorism and terrorists with a string of failed companies to his name who bought his ‘reverend’ title off of the internet”. When Barnes complained to Griffin about the suspension of Peter Mullins, the party’s former South West regional organiser, he “was threatened by Jim Dowson with violence for putting the parties legal interests first as he was the person pushing Nick Griffin to expel Peter Mullins and others. …
“It appears that when Jim Dowson doesn’t get what he wants he likes to threaten people with his connections to loyalist killers and terrorists in Northern Ireland in order to intimidate people into doing his bidding.”
Barnes points out that Griffin acted unlawfully in his move last Friday to suspend a long list of party members who support Butler. “Unfortunately, as the Peter Mullins case revealed, Nick Griffin thinks the law as regards the unlawful expulsion of members does not apply to him, even though he was shown by the courts during the John Tyndall case [when Griffin tried to expel his predecessor as party leader] that the law does apply to the BNP.
“The decision yesterday to unlawfully suspend dozens of activists simply for them standing against Nick Griffin in the leadership contest is the action of utterly irresponsible incompetents.”
As the BNP constitution was rewritten specifically to ensure that no one can ever remove Griffin as party leader, explains Barnes, Griffin is “tactically inept” in suspending Butler’s supporters as they “can now launch new legal actions against the party.
“The law is clear. BNP members have a constitutionally protected right to stand for party leadership. To suspend them for doing so is unlawful. The way they have been suspended is also unlawful.
“I have no doubt that they will now unite to form a class action against the party thereby incurring more legal costs and damages against an already virtually bankrupt party whose debts far outweigh its income,” declares Barnes.
Explaining his resignation, Barnes writes: “I cannot remain as the Legal Officer of a party that acts unlawfully towards its own members, that rewards years of party loyalty with unlawful suspensions and expulsions, that covers up serious allegations of sexual abuse by senior officers, that expels long standing members who ask for financial transparency within the party and that refuses to act to protect its own officers when they are threatened with violence by other senior officers.
“Such a political party cannot be trusted with political power in our society.
“If I stay on within such a party then it will appear as though I am supporting and condoning such actions,” concludes Barnes, no doubt mindful of the legal consequences of remaining the party’s legal officer.
Butler’s blog lists 31 people who have been suspended or expelled, or have resigned in anticipation of being suspended. The comments to his post add several other names and many people write they will leave the party or do nothing for it while Griffin remains in charge.
Butler also reveals that “due to the collapse of the party’s finances, approaching £100,000 worth of General Election expenses have still not been paid” in contravention of electoral law, which sets a stringent time limit on the payment of election expenses.
Furthermore, says Butler, the party’s candidates and agents were “lied to by the leadership” and wrongfully stated on their own election returns that all expenses have been paid, leaving them liable to a fine or imprisonment.
The expenses are apparently owed to printers and courier firms that transported the party’s election leaflets. Although, writes Butler, “our branches, groups and regions paid had the necessary funds in their accounts to meet these expenses … Head Office has stolen this money to pay for the bloated central bureaucracy – particularly to pay for the over staffed and highly costly Belfast operation [Dowson’s call centre] and also to pay for the court cases which we are embroiled in due to Nick Griffin’s incompetence and irresponsibility.”
According to Barnes, donations have dried up and the party is “technically insolvent”. However Griffin and Dowson will not suffer. “If the party is made bankrupt then the BNP membership as a whole will be directly financially liable for its outstanding debts as an unincorporated association and not Nick Griffin or Jim Dowson.
“This is because Nick Griffin has no assets and Jim Dowsons financial assets are probably hidden away in some Spanish or Swiss bank account outside the UK.”
Whether or not Butler gets enough nominations to continue with his leadership challenge, it seems that the BNP is unlikely to recover from the effects of the serious financial mismanagement of the party and the revelations that have emerged over the past few weeks.
Sonia Gable at HOPE not hate