Page last updated at 14:54 GMT, Friday, 10 November 2006

BNP leader's long road to court

Nick Griffin [left] and Mark Collett
BNP supporters have turned out in force during the trials
When BNP Leader Nick Griffin told a crowd Islam was a "wicked, vicious faith", he had no idea his speech was being secretly captured on camera.

Among his supporters and party faithful lay an activist turned mole who had agreed to help an undercover BBC reporter.

The resulting footage, screened in July 2004, prompted a police investigation.

Mr Griffin and activist Mark Collett remained defiant but found themselves charged with race hate offences.

Father-of-four Mr Griffin, 47, of Llanerfyl, Powys, and senior activist Mr Collett, 26, of Rothley, Leicestershire, were both cleared of all the charges against them after a second trial in November 2006.

Founding chairman of the BNP, John Tyndall, 70, was also charged with four race hate offences, but died in July 2005, two days before he was due to appear in court.

Demonstrators warned

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Leeds Crown Court in January 2006 for the opening day of the first trial.

A heavy police presence kept BNP supporters and opponents of the party apart.

Mark Collett and Nick Griffin outside court
Mark Collett and Nick Griffin emerged triumphant from their first trial

Inside court, the Recorder of Leeds, Judge Norman Jones, warned demonstrators not to try and influence proceedings.

And after a two-week trial, Mr Griffin and Mr Collett emerged triumphant.

Cleared of two of the four charges he faced, the party leader said the outcome was a "tremendous victory for freedom".

His activist, Mr Collett, was acquitted of four charges out of eight.

But the jury failed to reach a verdict on other charges against both men and the pair were told they would be brought back to the dock for a retrial.

Laying down the gauntlet, Mr Griffin's response was: "If the CPS feel they must continue to persecute us simply for telling the truth then we will see them in court."

Aim 'to motivate'

Rowdy scenes again greeted the pair as they arrived at Leeds Crown Court for their retrial earlier this month.

Throughout both trials, the men have maintained their words were intended not to stir up racial hatred but to motivate already like-minded people to get involved in the party.

In summing up the case, Judge Norman Jones QC said a democratic society gave its citizens the right to free speech.

He said: "That does not mean it is limited to speaking only the acceptable, popular or politically correct things."

SEE ALSO
BNP leader cleared of race hate
10 Nov 06 |  Bradford
Brown wants tougher race hate law
10 Nov 06 |  UK Politics
BNP mole still living in hiding
10 Nov 06 |  Bradford

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