Ex-BNP man fined for publishing members' names

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Indy Politics

A judge attacked an ex-member of the British National Party for living off the state today as he fined him £200 for releasing membership details online.

District Judge John Stobart described Matthew Single's decision to publish the names and contact details of some 12,000 BNP party members as "foolish and criminally dangerous".

Among those exposed by the list, which included some members' occupations, were current and former servicemen, teachers, doctors and a police officer.

But today, after a nine-month investigation costing around £50,000, Single, a 37-year-old jobless engineer, walked free from court.

District Judge Stobart said he was unable to increase the fine to anywhere near the £5,000 maximum limit because Single is on state benefits.

The judge added: "Anything that is posted on the internet has the effect of opening a Pandora's box.

"What you put on the internet can never be taken from it and while there may be some members in this organisation who do not deserve to be protected by the law, they should be able to expect that officers within the organisation will not abuse the information provided to them.

"It came as a surprise to me, as it will to many members of the party, that to do something as foolish and as criminally dangerous as you did will only incur a financial penalty.

"It also comes as no surprise to me that somebody to do with an organisation that prides itself on Britishness is in fact living off the British people on Job Seeker's Allowance and that is why the fine is so low as to be ridiculous."

At Nottingham Magistrates' Court today, Single admitted one charge under the Data Protection Act, of disclosing the personal details of BNP members without their consent.

He was also ordered to pay £100 towards the prosecution's costs and will make the payments by having £5 per week deducted from his benefits.

The Crown Prosecution Service said that following his guilty plea, they were dropping the charges against his wife, 30-year-old Sadie Graham-Single.

She was not at court today, having moved with her husband from Church Lane, Brinsley, Nottinghamshire, to a new home in the south of England, the address of which was not disclosed by the court.

More than 160 complaints were made to the police from BNP members across the country after they became victims of revenge attacks following the publication of the list last November.

One of those affected by its release was Pc Steve Bettley, who was sacked by Merseyside Police in March.

He said he was enrolled in the party by a family member without his knowledge and is appealing against his dismissal.

An investigation was launched when BNP party leader Nick Griffin lodged a complaint with Dyfed-Powys police, his local force, claiming the publication breached human rights and data protection laws.

Outside court, Detective Sergeant Chris Reynolds said he was "disappointed" with today's result.

He added: "It's taken a great deal of work to get the case to court.

"There was pretty serious stuff after what happened. People were fearful for their safety.

"There was an arson attack on a vehicle; there were daubings and malicious communications.

"White powder was also put through people's letterboxes purporting to be anthrax and there were daubings of swastikas on garage doors and on homes."

The row between Single, his wife and the BNP started in December 2007 when the couple were expelled from the party for launching a blog, calling on Nick Griffin to sack a number of their colleagues.

They then used the membership list to send out a bogus BNP mailshot demanding Nick Griffin change the structure of the party.

After this, the BNP successfully sought a court order against Single, who trained its members in security techniques, and his wife, banning them from publishing the details of the party's members.

Although Mrs Graham-Single had given the information to her husband he was prosecuted for publishing the details on the web.

The BNP says the dispute within the party started when Single and some of his former colleagues tried to install Mrs Graham-Single as leader and were frustrated because they were unable to make constitutional changes taking power away from the leadership.

Single, on the other hand, claims the party had become entirely focused on making money and had turned in to a "cult" centred on Nick Griffin. He said he wanted to make the party seem more acceptable to mainstream voters and less focused on extreme politics.

Before he was arrested, Single was found by police in Rochford, Essex, "depressed and upset" and wanting to harm himself after publishing the names.

He later confessed to the police doctor before detectives found a laptop computer and two memory sticks which were wrapped in cellophane and hidden at the bottom of a cereal box.

Computer analysis linked the laptop computer to the online blog after detectives tracked down internet service providers in America.

John Walker, a spokesman for the BNP, said Single had been plotting against senior figures in the party, including leader Nick Griffin, before he was expelled.

Mr Walker said many party members were now looking to bring a civil case against Single.

He added: "As far as I'm concerned, it should have been a custodial sentence although I do know that there haven't been very many (similar) cases brought yet."

The court heard Mrs Graham-Single, a recruitment consultant, has one 14-month-old child with her husband and is expecting twins.

As well as being the party's group head of development, the university graduate had also been a BNP councillor, representing her home constituency on Broxtowe Borough Council, before she was expelled from the party.

Outside court, Single, dressed in a checked shirt and brown pin-striped trousers, said the BNP had become a cult.

He also denied rumours he and his wife were actually members of a socialist organisation who had infiltrated the BNP.

"The BNP at grassroots level has some very good and honest people but I think at the top of the party it's very corrupt," he said.

"It seems to be more to do with about trying to make money than about trying to serve local communities.

"It's turned into a cult where all the members look to one person, that being the party leader, Nick Griffin."

"This happened because Griffin saw Sadie as a challenge to his authority, as a threat.

"We wanted to make the party something far more acceptable."