Friday, November 10, 2006

Nick Griffin - the right verdict

Nick Griffin has been acquitted of a charge of using words and behaviour intended to stir up racial hatred. The charges were based on a speech he made to BNP party faithful. Referring to islam, he said: 'This wicked, vicious faith has expanded from a handful of cranky lunatics about 1,300 years ago.' He said a lot of other things besides, including some offensive things about non-white people.

I believe the Not Guilty verdict was the right one in this case. Griffin argued that the comments were made in private. While the law acknowledges that the offence can be committed in a private place, broadly speaking, there is no offence if the comments are made in a dwelling, and are not heard by anyone outside that place. All the accused has to do is prove that he had no reason to believe that his comments would be heard by anyone outside.

Nick Griffin made his comments to like-minded people at a meeting in a pub. It was clear that he did not expect anyone outside that room to hear what he was saying. He was recorded saying that if his words got outside the room, he would 'get seven years'. That, to me, is proof that his comments were intended for 'internal consumption', so to speak.

As for 'stirring up' racial hatred, I am sure his audience did not need Griffin to do that for them. As BNP sympathisers, they were most likely convinced of the same things as he. Quite how he could be accused of intending to stir up racial hatred when he was making a speech to like-minded folk, I don’t know. You could say he was preaching to the converted.

I am still not sure why the rude remarks about islam should have been the basis of a race hate charge. I would have thought the ‘islam is not a race’ truism had been widely accepted by all and sundry. If someone could explain this to me, I'd appreciate it.

No doubt about it, the BNP is a racist party. Some of their policies are utterly racist and repulsive. The fact that they have been acquitted does not mean their policies have been approved by the jury. Today's judgment is nothing more than the result of the law being properly applied; as such it is a victory for free speech and justice. One can be grossly offensive and racist without necessarily committing a crime. That is the most important lesson from today's judgment.

Many are unhappy with the verdict. That is understandable. Sky News is reporting Gordon Brown as saying that the race hate laws may be changed. That is definitely not the right way to go about it. There is nothing wrong with the law as it applied to this case. If politicians find the outcome so unpalatable, they should do something sensible about it. The way to address racism is to have unhindered debate about these issues. Let there be no sacred cows. Let everything be up for debate; islam, immigration, everything. Shine the light into these dark areas and we will drive out the racists. If, however, we are prevented from discussing such issues because of political correctness, self-loathing or any such dogma, Griffin and his thugs will seize the platform every single time.
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Blogger John East said...

One good thing about New Labour, come tomorrow there is every chance they will be embroiled in some other issue promising a good sound bite, or too busy trying to deflect the next crisis to continue with yet more thought crime legislation.

Let's face it, as governments go, they don't have a long attention span on many topics.

My worry is that their need to ingratiate themselves with the Islamic community, once we begin what may well prove to be a bloody and messy withdrawal from Iraq, might mean this is one of the carrots they will put on the table.

7:38 PM  
Blogger CityUnslicker said...

Glad to have you back blogging.

I find it incredible to be on the side of the BNP here. It just shows how much politics is changing at the moment.

7:52 PM  
Blogger Bel said...

John, I'm inclined to agree with you about New Labour's knee jerk reaction to anything they think may make good news for them.

I would advise them, however, to turn away and pass on by from this one. It will bring them no political capital whatsoever. Whatever benefits they hope to gain by ingratiating themselves with the islamic community will be worth nothing if they alienate most of the wider population as a result.

As I commented on your blog, most of the comments emailed in to Sky News yesterday while I was watching, were in support of the verdict. These are ordinary members of the public, they are most likely not racists, they are most likely not BNP members. Those are the people New Labour should be listening to.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Bel said...

Hi cityunslicker, thank you. It's good to be back.

I agree with you, it is incredible to find ourselves on the side of the BNP in this case. For the right to freedom of speech and expression to mean anything, it should be equally available on the same terms to every body, yes, even the BNP. Whatever one may think of them, they have the same rights as everybody else.

This is exactly the point that those ministers (Brown, Reid) who want to change the law do not get.

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Ellee said...

The law all comes down to technicalities and yes, there is a difference between racial and religious hatred which needs addressing. That should have been understood after the first trial, avoiding a very expensive retrial.

We are fortunate to have freedom of speech and live in a democracy, I hope all communities appreciate that.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi I'm new to this forum. The comments you have made on the Nick Griffin case have interested me but I have to take issue with one of your points. Though I am a firm believer in the Freedon of Expression, you state that if you say something that you dont expect to be heard outside of the four walls where you are are making your comments then it is not an offence. ART10(2) of HRA makes it a crime to make comments that may affect the 'reputation or rights of others'. Griffins comments calling Islam a 'wicked and vicious' surely affects the reputation of all muslims and puts their safety in jeopardy? Though the meeting may have been attended by 'like-minded' individuals, they may not have had violent tendencies, however Griffin's comments could well have changed their opinions on using violence as an option. I have no problem with Griffin saying he doesn't like Muslims because they believe 'this or that' but to make up stories is an attack on common decency and an abuse of the democratic rights this country so proudly boasts about.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous fac!st said...

spartacus the only reason those people would become violent against muslims after the comment was made on Griffin's behalf was because of the fact that it was nick griffin who said it. If it were any other individual who made the comments then no other paticipant in the conversation would have been inclined to be violent against muslims and non-brits.
Argh, if Labour win YET AGAIN then I for one certainly will be moving to the U.S.A. - a lower tax rate and a 'survival of the fittest' approach is the sole reason why it is the single most powerful country in the world, along with an abundance of a SOLID socialist government...

10:38 PM  

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