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BRITISH National Party chiefs could be jailed if they carry on banning ethnic minority members, it emerged last night.

Non-whites are barred from joining the BNP, according to its own rulebook. The party’s constitution states that only people belonging to folk communities which arrived in Britain before the Battle of Hastings in 1066 can join.

But the Equality and Human Rights Commission said yesterday it had written to BNP leader Nick Griffin warning him that the rules were unlawful.

If the BNP fails to make changes by July 20, it could be hit with an injunction, with its leaders facing criminal prosecution if they ignore the court’s order.

Commission legal director John Wadham said: “The exclusion from membership of individuals whose ethnic origin is not listed constitutes unlawful discrimination on racial grounds.”

The BNP won two seats at this month’s European elections. It also has more than 100 councillors.

But the Commission said it was concerned that the BNP’s stance meant the party’s elected representatives could not serve all constituents equally. It added that the BNP’s rulebook effectively meant nonwhites were banned from working for the party – a breach of the Race Relations Act.

Mr Wadham said: “The BNP’s website states that the party is looking to recruit people and states that any applicants should supply a membership number.

“The Commission thinks that this requirement is contrary to the Race Relations Act, which outlaws the refusal or deliberate omission to offer employment on the basis of non-membership of an organisation.

“The Commission is therefore concerned that the BNP may have acted, and be acting, illegally.” BNP chiefs say the party is not racist – despite its whites-only constitution. Mr Griffin himself has a criminal conviction for inciting racial hatred.

Andrew Brons, the newly-elected MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, said earlier this month that double Olympic gold medal winner and former Army sergeant Dame Kelly Holmes could not be regarded as fully British as her Jamaican father meant she was“only partially from this country”.

The BNP has also attacked Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry, who won the Victoria Cross – Britain’s highest award for gallantry – after saving the lives of 30 comrades in Iraq. It described him as an immigrant who received a medal for doing something merely “routine”.

Mr Wadham said: “The legal advice we have received indicates that the British National Party’s constitution and membership criteria, employment practises and provision of services to constituents and the public may breach discrimination laws which all political parties are legally obliged to uphold.” continues here

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