Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday November 10th

This is the long awaited post from Nick and Simon about the activities of the last day of the Free Speech Retrial last month. Better late than never!

Simon Darby’s notes:

Up at just gone 5 a.m. to be sure to get to Leeds on time. Some activists will already have been on the road for an hour or more – people are coming from all over for what looks certain to be a day of suspense and drama. History in the making.

The headlines on most of the papers could hardly be better. The head of MI5 has warned of a huge numbers of active Islamist terror cells, with 30 known mass casualty plots. “Vicious, wicked faith” indeed. A good day for the verdict, even if it’s a bad one.

Queue to get in at court once again. Nick and Mark’s families are let in to the public gallery first and I sit in the row in front of them. Jackie is with three of their four – Richard, now a strapping young man who looks more like one of the security team than a worried son, Rhiannon and Elen. Jennifer can’t get time off university. Mark’s parents, sister and girlfriend are here too.

Also in court are Emmanuel from the independent European nationalist Internet network Altermedia, and the Doc, who is braced for a flood of media calls starting the moment the verdict is announced. Even now, journalists keep calling him to try to find out when a result is expected.

10.30 a.m. The jury are called back into court. Their half hour out yesterday afternoon was time to elect a foreman – a big chap perhaps in his late forties. Could easily be a builder. Clearly there is no decision yet. They leave court to carry on deliberating, we all head for the canteen.

Scarcely twenty minutes later and a call comes over the tannoy “All parties in the case of Collett and Griffin please go to Court 8 immediately”. Surely no verdict already? If so it can only be Not Guilty. We return to the court, only to find that Mark has vanished. He returns just as we’re starting to have visions of the Judge coming in before him and going berserk! But Mark arrives in the nick of time and things get under way again. Nick has already told us that he’s been informed that there is no verdict yet.

So why are we there? It turns out that the jury wanting to see speeches again. A brief flurry between the lawyers and the judge and it is decided that they will do so in open court once more. The videos themselves effectively are the prosecution case. The Judge says that he believes that the defence case has been summed up so recently that there is no need to reiterate it. I am unhappy about this as we’d do far better to finish on the highnote of the defence case, but there you go.

We all watch the videos yet again. For the jury it’s the second time only, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen them. It’s hard to see through the smoked glass between the public gallery and the jury box, but those members I can see seem utterly unaffected by the films. The foreman makes a few notes during Mark’s first speech, then just watches it all with the others.

Once the DVDs are finished (it takes about an hour) the jury and then we all leave once again. I go outside to speak to people in our crowd. I don’t use the megaphone in order to avoid any risk of inadvertently committing contempt of court.

Everyone is asking what I think and my answer is the same: “They’d have to be a really hard-nosed jury to convict either of them.”

I go back in. Mark is worried, telling us that “I’m going down”. Various people reassure him that it doesn’t look like that to people who are not so uncomfortably close to the action. Nick is stoic, a bit quieter than usual but otherwise unaffected.

Judge had said come back at 2.15 as he wouldn’t take a verdict over lunch. We return and the Jury come in a few minutes later – it appears that they reached their decisions either just before or over lunch. Quite a short time for six separate charges, which is perhaps a good sign.

The foreman is asked if they have reached verdicts on which they are all agreed, he nods almost imperceptibly as he says ‘yes’. The tension is unbelievable, for the defendants, their families and for me – perhaps a minute away from having the worst job in the country!

Charges one and two relate to Mark’s first speech. Charge one? No one breathes as we wait for the first syllable of his answer. While it be ‘N..’ or ‘G...’?

“Not guilty”. There is a sigh or gasp from the females in Mark’s life.

Charge two?

“Not guilty”. One of them begins to sob with relief.

Charge three?

I glance back at Nick’s family. All are deadly still, except that Rhiannon and Richard are shaking. Pale.

The answer to this one, though, has to be a foregone conclusion. For a jury to find Mark’s first speech legal but to say that Nick’s was intended to stir up hatred would be unbelievably perverse.

“Not guilty”.

Each verdict is now producing a gasp and sobs of relief from their relatives.

Charge four?

For me, poised to have to go down and face the battery of media cameras and to try to keep our people calm and positive if the worst comes to the worst, this is the crunch one.

“Not guilty!” The crying behind me is now uncontrolled and clearly uncontrollable.

Charge five, Mark’s second ‘intended’ charge, is almost lost in the relief as there’s really no chance of a different verdict on this one.

“Not guilty”.

Which leaves Mark’s final ‘likely’ charge. This is the moment where we find out if the jury members worked out some kind of ‘plea bargain’ among themselves – rather than a hung jury on a couple of charges a ‘not guilty’ on one and a ‘guilty’ on another.

“Not guilty!”

The biggest sigh of relief; desperate, racking sobs of relief from Mark’s loved ones. The Sky news reporter leaps from her seat and bolts out of the door. We suppress a cheer but the public gallery is noisy. The judge demands quiet and gets it, except for the crying.

Nick and Mark are released immediately. Some of the jury are smiling – for the first time – clearly in response to the smiles and nodded thanks from the two men they have just vindicated. They look pleased with themselves, as well they should.

The moment Nick is out of the dock he puts his head and arm over the glass barrier and tells and gestures us all to be silent. He does the same – a huge grin on his face, has he comes round the smoked glass and into the public gallery section of the court.

Mark is a pace behind him and they head for the door like horses or greyhounds out of the trap! The usher tells everyone else to stay where they are. As the court door swings shut behind the two now ex-defendants, a huge cheer from the people waiting in the foyer outside rings through the court.

The judge ignores it, perhaps because it’s cut short, and I guess he knows by now that Nick not only can control our people but also is doing so. Then he discharges the jury, telling them that they have tried a sensitive case carefully and fairly. They file out back to their day-to-day lives and out of history, no doubt to tell dozens of people at home or in pubs what they’ve just seen and done. Some will drink out on this for many a time!

“All stand,” says the usher for the last time, Judge Norman Jones bows slightly to the court for the last time, turns and walks out of the door to his left. Nick and Mark’s families dash out, and we all follow.

It’s chaos outside in the foyer. Everyone hugging, tears streaming down faces. Once the family embracing and kissing is over, I grab Nick: “You’re too clever for them, Nick” and then shake Mark’s hand “I told you you’d be OK.”

An elated calm descends. The supporters go out to join the rest of the crowd, leaving the families and security team. Nick and Mark both sit on the padded seats in the corner to work briefly on what to say outside. I fire a few daft jourrnalists’ questions at Nick by way of practice and suggest that Mark has a go at the BBC.

The Sky reporter comes back in and asks me what’s happening next. Then the Doc gets a call, one of the TV stations want them on live for the three o’clock news if possible.

Nick thanks the cops who are still standing near us in their high-vis jackets. They smile and nod in reply. All are friendly. We head downstairs past more smiling police officers. In the entrance hall Danny Warville and Nick discuss the arrangements outside with the senior police officer, who is clearly on top of the job and keen to let us have our moment outside. “It’s your show”, he tells Nick – and it’s going to be!

Danny pulls his security team together and gives them one final briefing: “Job’s nearly done, but it’s not over yet. Keep it tight. Let’s keep the box (the positioning of security personnel around the ‘principles’) and keep discipline.”

Then it’s outside to the huge BNP crowd going mad with joy and victory, the dozen reds screaming with frustration and hate, and the biggest bank of press cameras I’ve ever seen at any BNP event. A thicket of TV and radio microphones have been set up just our side of the police crash barrier and the two heroes of the moment speak standing next to them. You’ve seen the rest on TV.

I see Emmanuel fliming with the small but very serviceable camcorder he uses for AltermediaTV. He’s grinning insanely, bowled over by the enthusiasm of our crowd and the skilled, effortless way that both Mark and Nick are handling the media. “I love England and I you English,” he enthuses, and we have to forgive him – a foreigner after all! – for not noticing the Scottish, Welsh and Irish flags and accents among our crowd.

It starts to pour with rain, but none of us minds. Nearly half an hour later Nick and Mark have finished the media interviews at the lower end of the precinct and shaking hands and kissing their way up the line of our crowd.

Then we find a fresh scrum of TV cameras and radio mikes at the top end. Nick gives an interview to ITN resting his right arm, and hand holding a white champagne bottle, on a car. Soaking wet, he parries silly questions with practiced ease, and pauses between points to take a mouthful of champagne. (He tells me later that he was getting dry by this time, but that also he wanted to give them shots of insolent victorious defiance, “if they’re honest or daft enough to use them” – they weren’t!)

The two event stewards, both Leeds chaps who’ve worked incredibly hard at both trials, help see the cars away, while maps are given out to our people showing them how to reach the pro-BNP pub that we’re heading back to continue our celebrations.

The atmosphere there is electric too, with Nick thanking various notables, principally the brilliant security team, and with a special mention to Paul and Linda Cromie for their warm hospitality to so many people throughout both trials. We’d beaten ‘them’; as the rain came down outside we watched the early news reports on a giant pub TV, cheering each new bit of coverage. It was like some victorious tribe celebrating the defeat of a mortal enemy. I hope that some of the atmosphere at this will come over in the BPtv coverage to be released shortly. No one who was there will ever forget it.

Final word from Nick:

There is little more to say. The legal argument sections of my blog, which could not be published for legal reasons during the trial, will have to be published, not least so at to provide guidance for future victims of similar State repression.

As for this last day, I was truly pretty sure that we’d get a hung jury, perhaps with one or two majority decison ‘Not guilty’ verdicts, but didn’t dare let myself hope that the sea-change in public opinion since January, which we all knew had taken place, would actually extend to an entire jury to give ‘Not Guilty’ verdicts all round.

Jackie went out to see our crowd at lunchtime (as is normal in all cases, Mark and I were not allowed out once the jury had retired) in order to reassure them that the decision to watch the videos again was from the jury and not something imposed by the prosecution. Apparently she also told people that, even if we went down, it was still “win, win”. Politically, that is. Elen danced around in front of the crowd in the drizzle – another exhibitionist Griffin!

Actually, as we watched the DVDs in the light of all that had been said, I felt that they clearly bore out what we had said in our defence, rather than the highly selective and strained interpretation that the prosecution was inviting. They were much more comfortably viewing this time around – and clearly the jury decided the same.

The worst thing by far of the whole day was when I phoned Roy Goodwin at lunchtime, to suggest an activity in his North West region in response to something in a newspaper. I knew that Sheila, his wife, had been taken into hospital for tests, but it hadn’t sounded too serious. Now he told me that he’d just been told she was dying. What a blow.

But, to be honest, no external news could compete for our attention once we stood to hear the verdict. Would we get the best result politically possible – to be martyrs for free speech on the twin issues, asylum and Islam, where the vast majority of the public agree with us – or the second best result, walking free?

I’ve had a ‘Guilty’ verdict in the past, as well as a ‘Not Guilty’ one and a hung jury in January, so at least I’d done it all before. Mark was a bundle of tension next to me. The security staff in the dock with us were relaxed and reassuring.

Each successive ‘Not Guilty’ was another weight lifted from us. The last was beyond description. The security staff congratulated us as we left. Members of the jury finally made real eye contact and smiled broadly. I stopped for a moment before turning to leave the main court area until the judge gestured slightly for us to leave. I bowed my head to him, tried to take in my family and our supporters in the public gallery with a single glance, and got out of there as quickly as I possibly could!

Outside, the only point to add to what you already know is that the police had earlier told our event organisers that we would be arrested if we drank the champagne in Oxford Row precinct, so they’d had to put away the plastic but still passable glasses that had been brought along together with the red, white and blue bottles of best Jean-Marie Le Pen champagne. We were just supposed to spray the bubbly, but not to drink any of it.

I told whoever it was told me this, and any police officer within earshot, that they could arrest me for drinking in a public place if they were stupid enough to make a scene, but that I was going to drink it come what may. And I did, and so did Mark, several security lads (drinking on duty, whatever next?!), Jackie and I don’t know or care who else.

I could write a whole chapter about how it felt, and about the wonderful people in the crowd there to congratulate and thank us. Don’t thank us, thank the anonymous members of an ordinary jury – ‘ordinary’ Yorkshire men and women who refused to accept the would-be diktats of an out-of-touch, would be over-mighty State.

One other point about people in all this saga who might otherwise be forgotten. Much though John Tyndall and I disagreed and clashed on various matters, it should not be forgotten that he too was charged along with Mark and me, and that he died of a heart attack just days before an earlier hearing. Despite our differences, I want to record my belief that the Blair regime hounded him to death out of sheer malice and spite, and that his death is another stain on their revolting record of crimes.

But that’s enough for now. It remains only for me to thank our families for standing by us, our supporters – especially the loyal band who came every day and endured some bitterly cold weather to do so – who provided such a wonderful backdrop for media coverage of our trials and our triumph. Thanks too to the readers and uninvolved members of the public who sent us those heart-warming cards that came in piles each morning as we went into the dock.

Thanks too to Steve Blake and Emmanuel with the unspellable aristocratic French surname (do bookmark his Altermedia site if you haven’t already done so) for all their work in checking, posting and maintaining the blog, the excellent BNPtv footage (cheers Derek and Rod), and for fending off the various cyberspace attacks on our site.

Finally, a well-deserved mention to Martin, Danny and all the rest of the security team – pulled together almost from scratch back in January to a good standard, but a wonderful, supportive, professional team through the second trial. Thanks for everything, lads.

And thanks to you, the readers and donors who support this site. It gave us encouragement, a focus for our attention during the trial, and the knowledge that – whatever the outcome of the trial and ‘mainstream’ media coverage – the Blair regime could not lock us up without the truth of what had happened going out to a huge number of our people in Britain and indeed over the whole world. No wonder the enemies of freedom hate the Internet so much!

Oh yes, and special thanks to the BBC and David Blunkett for the best publicity we’ve ever had. Millions of ‘ordinary’ Brits who loath all your PC works now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that, even if others occasionally talk the talk, we’re the ones willing to walk the walk. It will, I suspect, be a long time before we can see just how much the Leeds Two Free Speech Trial has done for our party and our Cause.