West Midlands Police had been investigating whether any criminal offences had been committed by individuals featured in the programme ‘Undercover Mosque”, and had asked the CPS to advise on whether Channel 4 should be prosecuted for broadcasting a programme likely to stir up racial hatred.
The programme, aired on 15 January, was the product of an undercover investigation into hard-line Islamic fundamentalism being preached in British mosques. The police investigation concentrated on three speakers and their comments in the programme.
‘As a result of our initial findings, the investigation was then extended to include issues related to the editing and portrayal of the documentary,’said Assistant Chief Constable Anil Patani of the West Midlands Police.
But CPS reviewing lawyer Bethan David advised the force that there was insufficient evidence that racial hatred had been stirred up by the programme. It would have been necessary to identify a key individual responsible for stirring up racial hatred, as well as an intent to do so.
David considered 56 hours of media footage of which only a small part was used in the programme.
She said: ‘The splicing together of extracts from longer speeches appears to have completely distorted what the speakers were saying. 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.”
There is also insufficient evidence to bring charges against any of the indivuals featured in the programme, the CPS said in a statement released today.
West Midlands Police have referred the matter to Ofcom.
The airing of Undercover Mosque coincided with the trial of the 21 July bomb plot defendants.
The judge told the jury: ‘If any of you saw or heard it, or if you read review of it in the newspapers, please ignore it completely. It’s a very good example of why you should close your mind completely to the media and concentrate on what is said in this courtroom.”
Shortly after the programm was aired, Media Workers Against the War accused the documentary of being a ‘textbook example of Islamophobic reporting”.
Dispatches editor Kevin Sutcliffe responded to this accusation at the time.
‘This was an important piece of investigative journalism and I would have thought that people would be more interested in what the programme exposed rather than shooting the messenger,’he said.
A Channel 4 spokeswoman 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.”