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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 February 2006, 18:18 GMT
What now for the BNP?

BNP leader Nick Griffin has been cleared of two counts of inciting racial hatred but is facing a retrial on two similar charges. How will the court cases impact on his party?

Nick Griffin
Nick Griffin had minders at court
Dressed in a smart suit with a bright-coloured tie, Nick Griffin sat silently in the dock typing into his laptop computer.

Every day, on his way into Leeds Crown Court, he brought with him his own security team.

Sitting in court typing on his laptop, he looked more like a sharp-suited computer salesman.

He and his co-accused, fellow BNP member Mark Collett, both justified to the jury several speeches secretly recorded by the BBC.

Mini-referendum?

Mr Collett was accused and cleared of four counts of using insulting or abusive words intended to stir up racial hatred.

Although like his party leader he too faces a retrial on four similar counts as the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Voters now have a clearer view of what the BNP leadership says in private, as well as in public

In all, the jury listened to six BNP speeches and then heard them dissected - often, line by line - by the defence and the prosecution teams.

A case that was only expected to last a week ended up taking twice that time.

All those involved in this case, including the judge, insisted that this trial should not be seen as a mini-referendum on the British National Party.

Despite the announcement of a retrial on six charges, the BNP will feel vindicated.

Mr Griffin said outside court: "This evening, millions of people in Britain will be holding their heads a little higher and walking a little taller."

Their opponents - of which there are many - will be bitterly disappointed.

Public verdict

The noisy demonstrations outside Leeds Crown Court by left-wing protest groups showed how fervent some of the opposition is to the BNP.

But in the view of Nick Griffin, it was freedom of speech that was on trial, not him.

The 46-year-old Cambridge University law graduate has tried to give the BNP a more respectable image since he became its leader in 1999, and it currently has 23 council seats.

As a result of the trial, and the TV documentary which aired the controversial speeches, voters now have a clearer view of what the BNP leadership says in private, as well as in public.

The verdict of the electorate will be delivered at the next election.


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