'Wasted money' claim over Dispatches police 'bullying'

Channel 4 has attacked West Midlands Police for wasting public money after it refused to apologise sooner for making false claims that the broadcaster’s Undercover Mosque investigation could have incited racial hatred.

Last week, the force and the Crown Prosecution Service paid out £100,000 to Channel 4 and programme-makers Hardcash Productions after a libel action taken by the Dispatches team.

It also publicly apologised for its press release issued last August that claimed the programme misrepresented the views of Muslim preachers and clerics with misleading editing.

Channel 4 deputy current affairs editor Kevin Sutcliffe called the police action ‘a quite extraordinary abuse of public money’after it declined to apologise when the broadcast watchdog Ofcom vindicated the programme in November.

Sutcliffe said of the result: ‘We hope that it will give public authorities pause for thought before deciding to bully and harass journalists and broadcasters.

‘The CPS and the police had limitless resources and decided to take on a TV programme and decided, for whatever reasons, locally in Birmingham, to damage the programme.

‘The case shows we will withstand and defend our journalism against well-funded campaigns by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.”

Police said they had considered taking action against Channel 4, but were told the prospect of conviction was unlikely.

The force spent around £14,000 on the investigation, which initially looked at whether three of the individuals shown in the programme could be prosecuted for inciting terrorism or racial hatred but later, having decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute, turned its attention to the programme-makers.

Channel 4 has confirmed that £50,000 of the payout will be donated to the Rory Peck Trust for freelance newsgatherers and their families in times of need.

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