A bus driver from Bradford should not have been dismissed for being a member of the British National Party, the European court of human rights has ruled.
Sacking BNP councillor Arthur Redfearn from his job transporting disabled passengers – many of whom were of Asian descent, breached his rights to freedom of association, the Strasbourg court declared.
The judgment said "In a healthy democratic and pluralistic society, the right to freedom of association ... must apply not only to people or associations whose views are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive, but also to those whose views offend, shock or disturb,".
The judgement on Mr. Redfearn, who was sacked in 2004 by his employer, Serco, stated: "Prior to his political affiliation becoming public knowledge, no complaints had been made against him by service users or by his colleagues.
"Nevertheless, once he was elected as a local councillor for the BNP and complaints were received from unions and employees, he was summarily dismissed without any apparent consideration being given to the possibility of transferring him to a non-customer-facing role."
It continued: "It was incumbent on the [UK] to take reasonable and appropriate measures to protect employees, including those with less than one year's service, from dismissal on grounds of political opinion or affiliation."
Mr. Redfearn had primarily appealed against his dismissal on the grounds that he was the victim of race discrimination.
The tribunal said that his continued employment could cause considerable anxiety among Serco's passengers and their carers.
Therefore there was a risk that Serco's vehicles could come under attack from opponents of the BNP.
Mr. Redfearn was initially denied leave to take his case to the House of Lords but pursued it at Strasbourg.
The dissenting ruling by three ECHR judges, which included UK judge Sir Nicolas Bratza, ruled there had not been a violation of Article 11 of the convention, the right to freedom of association.
Mr. Redfearn had been employed for under a year and his employment rights were not as extensive as those who had been working for the qualifying one year period.
The judgement read "In a complex area of social and economic policy, it is in our view pre-eminently for parliament to decide what areas require special protection in the field of employment and the consequent scope of any exception created to the general rule."
The British National Party are delighted with this judgment; it does show however a worrying discrepancy between the court systems and this case of clear political persecution should have been put right in a British court.
The full judgement can be seen here
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