Dispatches editor: police intervention worrying for all journalists

Dispatches editor Kevin Sutcliffe has hit back at the Crown Prosecution Service for embroiling the programme in the ‘TV faking’row after it made accusations of heavy editing in the Undercover Mosque programme which the broadcaster strongly denies.

A statement issued by West Midlands Police and the CPS last week said that no charges had been brought against either the Islamic radicals featured in the programme or against Channel 4 for potentially inciting racial hatred.

But the CPS heavily criticised the programme’s editing, claiming it ‘completely distorted what the speakers were saying”. West Midlands Police have referred the matter to broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.

Sutcliffe told Press Gazette he has yet to be given any details from the CPS about what the programme-makers were supposed to have done.

He said: ‘I’m perfectly happy to have the debate and happy to look at the film again. If somebody wants to give them some detail as to what I’m supposed to have done, we’re happy to do that.

‘There’s no connection between the TV fakery row and this programme at all. It was quite annoying to then have to justify what is a strong, important film on the grounds of no evidence produced by the police or the CPS. They simply produced an extraordinarily bland series of allegations and to this point have refused to come on any media to justify their claims.’

The programme, broadcast in January, followed an undercover investigation into hard-line Islamic fundamentalism being preached in British mosques.

Sutcliffe said that, after watching the footage again following the accusation, Channel 4 remained confident that no one in the film was misrepresented or taken out of context. According to Sutcliffe, those featured in the film were all given a right to reply, which none of them took up, and no one featured in the programme complained to Ofcom.

He said: ‘At the moment, we are extraordinarily confident that this is a strong, really important film. Anybody who saw it was shocked by it, realised that the people in it were speaking openly, and the material spoke for itself. There was no need to start fiddling with the editing. There was a wealth of abhorrent material, some of it from DVDs, which everybody seems to have forgotten.”

He added: ‘The principal remains: why have the police decided to intervene in journalistic practices and why did they think they could? That’s raised the stakes – it’s a very worrying thing for any journalist or any programme-makers.”

Ofcom told Press Gazette that it received around 300 complaints regarding the programme when it was first broadcast in January, but due to fairness and privacy issues cannot disclose if any of those complaints were made by individuals featured in the documentary.

It confirmed that it received the complaint from West Midlands Police and has said it is investigating the matter.

A spokeswoman for the CPS told Press Gazette: ‘The evidence [of splicing] is clear in 56 hours of footage that the lawyer went through. As far as providing evidence to Channel 4 is concerned, our job is to review the evidence given to us by the police and decide whether or not there should be a prosecution.

‘As far as we’re concerned, there was insufficient evidence [of incitement] to prosecute anybody. The reason for that is that the splicing together of extracts of longer speeches completely distorted what the speeches were saying. That is the reason why we felt no one could be prosecuted.”

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