A Bradford bus driver has won his claim for racial discrimination at the European Court of Human Rights after his lawyers successfully argued that his dismissal for membership of the hard-right British National Party breached his human right to freedom of association under article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
In 2004 Arthur Redfearn, who is disabled, was a 'first-class' driver of a minibus for the disabled on behalf of Serco Limited, a contractor for West Yorkshire Transport Service.
He was dismissed on 'health and safety' grounds after winning an election to the post of councilor for the right-wing British National Party.
Serco believed that in an area with a large Asian population, Mr Redfearn's membership of a party with strong right-wing views would make him a target for violence.
Mr Redfearn took his case to the Employment Tribunal, claiming that in dismissing him Serco had discriminated against him, contrary to the Race Relations Act 1976. The Equality Act 2010 has subsequently clarified much of the law concerning discrimination; however, this case precedes that Act.
Mr Redfearn lost his case, but successfully appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal. Serco then appealed to the Court of Appeal and won on the basis that as no non-whites were allowed in the BNP, a claim for indirect discrimination must fail.
The case also failed on the basis that article 17 of the European Convention of Human Rights prohibits any rights afforded to groups that engages in activities that destroy other convention rights.
However, on Tuesday the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the decision to fire Mr Redfearn breached his right to freedom of association. The court ruled that the UK was under a responsibility to protect employees from dismissal on the grounds of political opinion or affiliation.
"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," the judgment read.
BNP bus driver sacked in race row (BBC News)