Monday, 8 November 2010

BNP back in court, day 1 of 2

Once more to the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand where the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) today continued their attempt to jail Nick Griffin, Simon Darby and Tanya Lumby.

Only Darby was actually in court, Lumby was caught up in travel problems and Nick Griffin is apparently in hospital with kidney stones. The court heard that he has been in and out of hospital a couple of times this last week. (Kidney stones is “renal colic” when you’re a barrister – not kidding!)

However all defendants now have barristers, Griffin was represented by one David Reid, and Rumpole and Munchkin (see previous post on this subject) were in court for the other two. Like on the 7th of September, Robin Allen, QC, BA (Oxon) for the Commission took charge of proceedings and his first act, even before the judges were in, was to order a line of people to shuffle along so that “Susie” the black lady from the CEHR would have somewhere to sit. The line in question was somewhat reluctant and “Susie” had to go sit down in the well of the court.

By 10:45am Lord Justice Moore-Bick and Mr Justice Ramsey had entered the court, each closely followed by a flunkey to pull out their chair for them. (This is a two-judge case therefore two flunkeys are also required.)

Mr Allen QC was then on his feet until the court rose at 1pm. In a long and turgid exposition he recapped the whole sorry saga going back months if not years. In an impressive display of mental fortitude their Lordships on the Bench didn’t fall asleep. Possibly the effort of turning over the pages at Mr Allen’s direction was keeping them awake.

By lunch time the judges had managed to extract from Mr Allen that the Commission’s position was that Nick Griffin had complied with the court order to change the BNP’s constitution in a tardy and partial manner and had sent something by email which he should have sent by post.

The Commission’s case is proceeding like a crab, making small forward progress but mainly shuffling sideways. They ordered Nick Griffin to change the BNP’s constitution and put up a message to all members on the website. So Nick did that. But then the CEHR didn’t like the wording of the change, and didn’t like the fact the message to all members was put on a members-only website, and didn’t like the fact that the clauses they wanted out of the constitution were only “suspended” not deleted – whatever that means.

One suspects that using the BNP members-only website to communicate with the members didn’t involve enough public humiliation for the CEHR’s liking.

However, his Lordship Lord Justice Moore-Bick seemed to know how to deal with crabs and as Mr Allen sidled off on a tangent he brought him on track every time. Mr Allen went downhill a bit as the morning progressed; he started by calling Nick Griffin a liar and saying the means to “sequester” him were close at hand (did he have a room full of cops next door?) but by the afternoon he was back-pedalling, saying he didn’t want to create a martyr, and that maybe a small fine would be an appropriate sanction but he left that very much up to the court.

Of course the CEHR is trying to win this by bankrupting the party with costs, not by winning an argument in court. They’re just looking to throw enough mud to have the costs awarded against the party.

It has to be said Nick & co don’t seem to have done themselves too many favours. Why didn’t they just comply with the original court order in a timely manner? And it seems Nick sent in his evidence in the form of five different affidavits, each one superseding the previous. That’s not very organised, to put it mildly.

Anyway, the case continues. Tomorrow the defence barristers will get a look in. Today most of them hardly said a word. I can’t wait.

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