Darren Grimes and the Police: Some Observations and Suggestions

From the Daily Telegraph:

Darren Grimes is being investigated by police on suspicion of stirring up racial hatred over an interview with the historian David Starkey that he published, it has emerged.

Mr Grimes, a conservative commentator, has been asked to attend a police station to be interviewed under caution after publishing a podcast in which Dr Starkey said slavery was not genocide because there are “so many damn blacks”.

…Mr Grimes is accused of a public order offence of stirring up racial hatred by publishing the interview on his podcast on July 2, The Telegraph can reveal. He has since apologised…

Grimes is framing the affair as a journalist being persecuted for a comment made by an interviewee, although his hack credentials are slight and the “interview” was a cosy chat with a man he described as being his hero.

Nevertheless, the sight of Grimes once again in the public eye as a martyr is dispiriting, and the policing priorities it exposes are disturbing. I here make a few observations.

First, the bar at which someone may be interviewed under caution is quite low. This has been obscured in recent years by sensationalising headlines and news stories, such as this one about the late Edward Heath.

Second, the police are not obligated to interview someone just because a complaint has been made. They could have decided that there was no case to answer based on the evidence already in the public domain; they could have logged Starkey’s words as a more trivial “hate incident“; or they could have given Starkey and Grimes informal “words of advice”.

Third, there is little chance of this coming to court, and Grimes may want to demonstrate that the complaint has no merit by declining to cooperate. He could do this in two ways:

(a) He could refuse to come in for a “voluntary” interview, and see if the police back down or escalate to an arrest. There is a risk to police if they make a wrongful arrest, but they can get away with threatening to make an arrest that would be wrongful, if the threat remains hypothetical because the suspect complies.

(b) He could give a “no comment” interview. Grimes is confident that he has acted within the law, and so he has no need to explain himself. It may go against his natural inclinations, and of course there is a popular conception that refusing to answer is suspicious, but a police investigation that fails without a suspect even putting forward a defence case will be exposed more unambiguously as having been deficient from the start.

Also, if Grimes provides a statement, the police can spend months mulling it over, and then announce that a “dossier” has been passed to the CPS. The CPS can then sit on it indefinitely, especially given the current circumstances. A “no comment” interview is more likely to lead to a speedy resolution.