Commission forces BNP to change its constitution and membership criteria after legal case victory

BNP: Commission wins legal case over constitution and membership criteria

15 October 2009

The Equality and Human Rights Commission announced today that it has won its legal case against the British National Party. The Commission has agreed to adjourn the case following the BNP’s confirmation that it will accept the Commission’s requirement that it change its constitution and membership criteria.  The BNP has also agreed to not accept any new members until its new constitution comes into force.

In an order issued at the Central London County Court this morning, the BNP has agreed to use all reasonable endeavours to revise its constitution so that it does not discriminate, either directly or indirectly on any 'protected characteristic' - for example on the grounds of race, ethnic or religious status - as defined in clause 4 of the Equality Bill. These changes must be carried out as soon as reasonably practicable, and no later than three months from today.

The order also states that from 15 October 2009, until the new constitution comes into effect, BNP Chairman Nick Griffin will close the membership of the Party to all new membership applications and prevent the Party from accepting into membership any new member.

The case has been adjourned until 28 January 2010.

John Wadham, Group Director Legal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

'We are pleased that the Party has conceded this case and agreed to all of the Commission’s requirements. Political parties, like any other organisation are obliged to respect the law and not discriminate against people. 

'It is unfortunate that the BNP spent several months before conceding and dealing properly with our legal requirements. We will be monitoring the BNP's compliance with this court order on membership, and its other legal obligations, including to its constituents.'

Watch <a href=&quot;http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8308888.stm&quot; _fcksavedurl=&quot;http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8308888.stm&quot; _fcksavedurl=&quot;http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8308888.stm&quot;>BBC News interview John Wadham</a>, Group Director Legal.

Watch BBC News interview John Wadham, Group Director Legal.

Background to the case

The Commission has a statutory duty, under the Equality Act 2006, to enforce the provisions of the Act and to work towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination. This duty includes preventing discrimination by political parties.

The Commission sent a letter before action on 22nd June 2009 to the BNP setting out its concerns about the party’s constitution and membership criteria which appear to restrict membership to those within what the BNP regards as particular 'ethnic groups' and those whose skin colour is white. This exclusion is contrary to the Race Relations Act which the party is legally obliged to comply with.

The Commission asked the BNP to provide written undertakings that it would amend its constitution and membership criteria to ensure and to make transparent that it does not discriminate against potential or actual members on racial grounds. 

Following the BNP’s failure to comply with these requirements, on 24 August 2009, the Commission issued county court proceedings (under sections 24 and 25(5) of the Equality Act) against the Nick Griffin and two other party officials, Simon Darby and Tanya Jane Lumby. 

Ends

For more information contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission Media Office on 02031170255, out of hours 07767272818.

Notes to editors

Read more information about the case.

About the Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act and international treaties. It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.