UK Documentary on Islamic Extremism Accused of Distortion: Police Complain to Ofcom

Police also considered prosecution under Public Order Act

A press release from the UK Crown Prosecution Service (link added):

West Midlands Police have completed their investigation into the Channel 4 Dispatches programme ‘Undercover Mosque‘ broadcast in January 2007.

The police investigation initially looked at whether there had been any criminal offences committed by those featured in the programme and following careful consideration by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), West Midlands Police have been advised that there is insufficient evidence to bring charges against those individuals featured within the programme.


[Assistant Chief Constable] Anil Patani for West Midlands Police said: “As a result of our initial findings, the investigation was then extended to include issues relating to the editing and portrayal of the documentary.

“The priority for West Midlands Police has been to investigate the documentary and it’s making with as much rigour as the extremism the programme sought to portray”.

A lawyer for the CPS, Bethan David, reviewed 56 hours of footage and concluded that the programme had supposedly “distorted” material gathered for the programme from Birmingham’s Green Lane Mosque, which has a public reputation for moderation but which has come under the baneful influence of Saudi Arabia:

The CPS was also asked by the 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. Miss David advised West Midlands Police that on the evidence available, there was insufficient evidence that racial hatred had been stirred up as a direct consequence of the programme. It would also be necessary to identify a key individual responsible for doing this together with an intent to stir up racial hatred, which was not possible.

So instead, the police have decided to complain about the programme to Ofcom, the UK television regulator. The commissioning editor from Channel 4, though, is bullish:

Kevin Sutcliffe, commissioning editor for Dispatches, said West Midlands police had produced no evidence to support their claims.

“We find it extraordinary that they have gone public on these concerns without discussing them with us first,” he said…”All the speakers featured in the film were offered a right to reply and none denied making these comments, nor have any of them complained to Ofcom to our knowledge.”

Indeed. There have been some dodgy programmes on Islam on British TV – last November Newsnight ran a piece on Hizb ut Tahrir that relied heavily (as I blogged at the time) on a weird and secretive group that had an anti-Islamic agenda – but the Dispatches programme was responsible and balanced. Of course it brought joy to the anti-Muslim right, but the blame for that lies with the extremists, not those who filmed and exposed them.

This is not the first time that the UK police have responded to a TV documentary with an investigation, only to turn on the documentary-maker instead. In 1999 Donal MacIntyre went undercover for a programme about the abuse of adults with learning disabilities in care homes in Kent; when the subsequent police investigation floundered, they accused McIntyre of wasting police time. MacIntyre sued for libel, and won.

(Hat tip: MediaWatchWatch)

4 Responses

  1. […] to refer the makers of a television documentary to Ofcom, the UK television regulator. As was widely blogged a few days ago, the documentary had uncovered evidence of extreme Islamist sentiments being […]

  2. […] about the Channel 4 documentary Undercover Mosque. As was widely blogged a few weeks ago (and by me here, here, and here), the documentary found extremist speakers and videos at a prominent mainstream […]

  3. […] support for Holocaust denial before the story was picked up by the mainstream media? How come I wrote favourably about a British documentary which uncovered extremism in some British mosques? There are other […]

  4. […] in the UK here; it forms a follow-up to Dispatches‘ 2007 programme Undercover Mosque (blogged here), and complements a BBC Panorama programme on extremism in some British Muslim schools which went […]

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