Last autumn, in the face of a legal challenge from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the British National Party agreed to amend its constitution to comply with the Race Relations Act.
Yesterday, a judge at Central London County Court ruled the party's new constitution illegal and gave the group one last chance to "get it right" before a final court hearing in March.
The British National Party's old constitution limited membership to "'indigenous Caucasians' and defined 'ethnic groups' emanating from that race." This kind of direct discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity, or skin colour is forbidden under UK law.
John Wadham of the EHRC said the party's amended constitution, which repeatedly uses the words "indigenous British", "is not that much of an improvement," and still displays "indirect discrimination."
Judge Paul Collins said: "I'm going to give the BNP an opportunity to have its EGM [extraordinary general meeting] and take into account what has been said today and get it right. I do not think there will be another opportunity to get it right. This is it." He also ordered the BNP to pay costs of £12,500.
The Guardian reports BNP officials will now need to rush out letters to its members to alert them to the proposed changes in the constitution and provide notice of next month's EGM.
The EHRC welcomed the court's ruling: "While granting an adjournment, the judge ruled that BNP leader Nick Griffin had been less than upfront and lacking in detail as to why he had been unable to carry out undertakings given previously to the court. We are pleased that the court awarded costs against the BNP to ensure Mr. Griffin takes his legal undertakings more seriously from now on.
"The judge also accepted 'powerful submissions' from the Commission that the BNP's proposed new constitution is likely to remain unlawful. We will be back in court in March where we hope to conclude this matter by ensuring that whatever constitution the BNP adopts does not break discrimination laws."
According to the Guardian, BNP spokesman Simon Darby said the party would have to "emasculate its constitution and drop its policies and principles" to comply with the court's wishes. "This is a deadly serious attempt to put us out of business," he said.
** Resources to combat racial discrimination **
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