The Crown Prosecution Service is blocking attempts to disclose details about the prosecution of Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National party, for race hate crimes, claiming that to do so would breach his data protection rights.
Griffin was given a suspended prison sentence in 1998 after being convicted of “publishing or distributing racially inflammatory written material”, an offence under the 1986 Public Order Act. The following year he was elected leader of the BNP.
The prosecution centred on a magazine edited by Griffin called the Rune, in which he dismissed the Holocaust as a hoax. At the trial he sacked his legal team and, conducting his own defence, attempted to justify the material he had published.
Griffin has been widely reported as dismissing the Holocaust as an “extremely profitable lie” when he gave evidence at Harrow crown court. But no transcript of the hearing was made and the only records about the case are held by the CPS.
Although the trial was heard in open court and ended in Griffin’s conviction, the CPS has rejected an request made under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) for disclosure of information in its files on the grounds that it is “sensitive personal data” that is protected by the Data Protection Act.
In a letter to the Guardian, which submitted the request almost four months ago, the CPS said: “The majority of the information contained in the case papers is personal data.
“A large proportion of this personal data is sensitive personal data because it consists of information as to the commission of an offence and Mr Griffin’s political opinions.”
On appeal, the CPS last week reiterated its view that Griffin’s rights are not outweighed by the public interest in the disclosure of the information.
Only last month the government announced fresh guidelines intended to give the public more information about criminal prosecutions.
Unveiling the guidelines, Alan Johnson, the home secretary, said they were intended “to set straight the misconception that human rights and data protection laws prevent criminals and their punishments from being exposed”.
The Guardian is now lodging a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office, which is responsible for final decisions on FoI requests.
see article at Guardian website at http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jan/22/nick-griffin-race-trial-details