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Thursday 15 May 2008

West Midlands Police finally apologise ...

... but only after being taken to court.

Last year I covered how Channel Four's 'Dispatches' sent undercover reporters into British mosques and filmed preachers saying amongst other things:
“Do you practise homosexuality with men? Take that homosexual man and throw him off the mountain.”

“If I were to call homosexuals perverted, dirty, filthy dogs that should be murdered, that’s my freedom of speech isn’t it? They’ll say: “No”, I’m not tolerant. But they feel that it’s okay to say something about the Prophet.”

"Whoever changes his religion from Al Islam to anything else – kill him"
And how, after a ridiculous 'investigation', West Midlands Police (and the Crown Prosecution Service) instead of prosecuting these people for inciting violence made a complaint to Ofcom about the editing of the programme claiming it was 'stirring up racial hatred'. A complaint which itself was technically odd.

I noted that this was the same police who had a fraught relationship with their local gay and lesbian community.

And how police in general had had to be forced into taking action against murder music, dancehall reggae which is all about how to kill gays and lesbians.

I even found myself on the same side as the Editor of the Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore, who said:

I do not know whether the Dispatches programme is right in every detail. But it clearly raises serious, important questions - about extremists in our midst, about the way apparently moderate organisations give them shelter, about the Saudi Arabian network that supports them.

What security agencies call "thematic analyses" show that, at present, the problems of Islamist extremism are particularly acute, especially in prisons and universities, in the West Midlands area.

Yet the West Midlands police and the Crown Prosecution Service decide that the target of their wrath should be not people who want to undermine this country, but some journalists who want to expose them.

Are they fit to protect us?

Late last year, Ofcom threw the complaint out and Channel Four then decided to launch a court action for defamation.

Andy Duncan, Channel 4 chief executive, said at the time:
West Midlands Police acted in a calculated fashion - they made no attempt to discuss their concerns about the film with us in advance of going public with their complaint to Ofcom knowing that an allegation of 'fakery' would generate significant media interest. Their action gave legitimacy to people preaching a message of hate to British citizens.
After being dragged to court, this apology and £100k payout is the result (half of the payout covers costs, the other goes to the Rory Peck Trust for freelance news gatherers and their families in times of need).
Following an independent investigation by the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, we now accept that we were wrong to make these allegations. We now accept that there was no evidence that the broadcaster or programme makers had misled the audience or that the programme was likely to encourage or incite criminal activity. A review of the evidence (including untransmitted footage and scripts) by Ofcom demonstrated that the programme had accurately represented the material it had gathered and dealt with the subject matter responsibly and in context.

We accept, without reservation, the conclusions of Ofcom and apologise to the programme makers for the damage and distress caused by our original press release.
[CPS apology]

I think they should apologise to the gay and lesbian community - infact the whole community - as well, for 'wasting police time'.

The people who were responsible and should suffer some consequences are:
  • CPS lawyer, Bethan David
  • Assistant Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police, Anil Patani
  • West Midlands Chief Constable, Paul Scott-Lee
Amongst others who weighed in against Channel Four were
  • The secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Muhammad Abdul Bari
  • Press spokesperson of the Muslim Council of Britain, Inayat Bunglawala
I would also be interested to know who, if any, of Birmingham's MPs supported Channel Four.

And whether any prosecutions for 'incitement to violence' against the hate preachers exposed in the documentary will ever follow.

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