British legislators consider broadening hate crimes law after BNP acquittals

British legislators consider broadening hate crimes law after BNP acquittals

[JURIST] UK Chancellor Gordon Brown [official profile] called for broader race hate laws after a British jury Friday acquitted [JURIST report] two British National Party [official party website] (BNP) members Friday of inciting racial hatred. The charges stemmed from 2004 speeches in West Yorkshire, taped by the BBC, in which BNP leader Nick Griffin [BBC profile] calling Islam a "wicked, vicious faith" and senior aide Mark Collett [Wikipedia profile] referred to those seeking asylum as "a little bit like cockroaches." In February, the two men were cleared of similar charges, but the jury failed to reach a verdict on all charges [BBC report], which led to a second trial [JURIST report].

Also speaking in response to the acquittals, UK Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer told BBC Radio 4: "…we have got to demonstrate without compromising freedom that we are not [anti-Islam]." Liberal Democratic MP Evan Harris [personal website], however, warned that greater legislative restrictions could create "extremist martyrs." The 2006 Racial and Religious Hatred Act [text] makes it an offense to stir up hatred on religious grounds, but prosecutors must prove criminal intent rather than simply "recklessness." BBC News has more.