Police accuse Channel 4 of distorting film on radical Muslim preachers

8th August 2007
Daily Mail

A police force has made a formal complaint to Ofcom about the editing of a Channel 4 programme, Undercover Mosque, after unsuccessfully trying to prosecute for stirring up racial hatred.

West Midlands Police said it had been advised by the Crown Prosecution Service that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the broadcaster.

The Dispatches programme, broadcast in January, featured footage shot at a number of mosques, including one at which a preacher praised the Taliban for killing British soldiers.

In a joint statement with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), West Midlands Police said its inquiry initially looked at whether there had been any criminal offences committed by three people featured in the programme, but then extended to its editing.

Green Lane Mosque in Birmingham, where part of the programme was filmed

Confirming that police had now made a formal complaint to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom, Assistant Chief Constable Anil Patani said: "The priority for West Midlands Police has been to investigate the documentary and its making with as much rigour as the extremism the programme sought to portray."

Mr Patani said the CPS's reviewing lawyer, Bethan David, considered 56 hours of footage, of which only a small part was used in the programme.

Miss David claimed the splicing together of extracts from longer speeches appeared to have "completely distorted" what the speakers were saying.

The lawyer added: "The CPS has demonstrated that it will not hesitate to prosecute those responsible for criminal incitement, but in this case we have been dealing with a heavily-edited television programme, apparently taking out of context aspects of speeches which in their totality could never provide a realistic prospect of any convictions."

The CPS was asked by police to consider whether a prosecution under the Public Order Act 1986 should be brought against Channel 4 for broadcasting a programme including material likely to stir up racial hatred.

But Miss David advised police that on the evidence available, there was insufficient evidence that racial hatred had been stirred up as a direct consequence of the programme.

A police spokesman said: "West Midlands Police has taken account of this advice and explored options available to them and has now referred the matter to the broadcasting regulators Ofcom as a formal complaint.

"West Midlands Police has also informed Channel 4 of this course of action."

The Dispatches programme investigated activities at several mosques across the country, including the Green Lane Mosque in Birmingham.

It featured interviews with moderate British Muslim figures, who spoke out against extremism.

Responding to news that police had complained to Ofcom, a Channel 4 spokesman said: "We believe
the offensive views expressed by the people revealed in the programme speak for themselves.

"We didn't put these words into people's mouths and all extracts were carefully contextualised.

"The West Midlands Police have provided no evidence whatsoever to support their allegations."

At the time of the broadcast, Channel 4 described the programme as an extensive investigation which revealed how a message of "hatred and segregation" was being spread by some Islamic preachers.

Promotional material issued by the broadcaster described footage captured by an undercover reporter, including sermons deriding homosexuals and non-believers, as "chilling".

West Midlands Police said there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone whose comments featured in the programme, although it acknowledged that some of the remarks might have been considered offensive.