Nick Griffin’s suspended prison sentence for inciting racial hatred would prevent him from standing as a councillor, but not as a Westminster or MEP, under electoral laws.
The Electoral Commission admitted that the only bar to standing in a UK parliamentary seat would be if someone were currently serving a sentence of 12 months or longer. Similarly, people are allowed to stand in European seats under UK electoral law whatever crimes they have committed, provided they have not served a 12-month prison sentence. The bar is, however, set substantially higher at local elections. Anyone who has had a prison sentence of three months or more, for however trivial a crime, in the previous five years is banned from standing as a councillor.
Mr Griffin, the leader of the BNP, was found guilty , in April 1998 of distributing material likely to incite racial hatred and handed a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.
In 1984, Andrew Brons, the winner of the party’s other European seat, was found guilty of behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace after his arrest in Leeds while selling papers. He was fined £50 after being heard shouting “death to Jews” and “white power”. Members of other parties, including UKIP, have also gone on to represent voters after being convicted.
Ashley Mote, 73, who represented South East England as an independent, was found guilty of falsely claiming benefits of more than £65,000 and given a nine-month jail term in 2007. The former UKIP representantive has since been given permission to appeal against his conviction. He was elected for UKIP in 2004 but was thrown out by the party when it learnt of his prosecution. He stayed on as an independent MEP but did not seek re-election this year.