A senior officer has been appointed on Monday to review a hate crime investigation of renowned British historian David Starkey and podcast host Darren Grimes, the Metropolitan Police (MET) has said.
The review of the investigation is “to ensure it remains proportionate and that all appropriate lines of inquiry are being considered,” the MET said in a statement.
Meanwhile, scheduled interviews with the two accused have been postponed.
Many public figures including the Home Secretary had voiced their support for Grimes, who found out about the investigation days before Starkey did.
‘Stirring Up Racial Hatred’
Grimes on Oct. 9 posted a video on Twitter, saying the MET had told him to attend a voluntary interview or he could be arrested.
Grimes said he was accused of “stirring up racial hatred” in an episode of his show “Reasoned” published on Jun. 30.
He later told Triggernometry the details of how he went to his local police station to verify if the email was real, and immediately contacted The Free Speech Union (FSU) for help after finding out it was.
At the time Grimes was thought to be the only person under investigation.
It was then revealed on Tuesday that the email to Starkey, sent to the Bow Group, a think tank he’s affiliated with, was initially “binned” because the group assumed it was a hoax.
After seeing the news of Grimes being under investigation, the group realised the email was real and forwarded it to Starkey.
The Met said the allegation of a public order offence was passed to them from Durham Police on July 4, which they reviewed and submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for early investigative advice.
“On 25 September early investigative advice was received and officers began an investigation. No arrests have been made,” the MET said in a statement.
The Telegraph quoted Starkey’s statement, saying he had made “a serious error” for which he “had paid a significant price.”
“I did not, however, intend to stir up racial hatred and there was nothing about the circumstances of the broadcast which made it likely to do so,” Starkey said.
He said he would cooperate with the investigation but defend himself “robustly against any allegation of criminal wrongdoing,” the Telegraph quoted.
Regarding the investigation of Grimes, the role of the “young, aspiring journalist” in the affair “is—at most—secondary,” Starkey said.
“The focus on Mr. Grimes has raised fundamental questions about the freedom of the press and public debate. As I said in my original apology, my principal concern was that my blundering use of language and the penalties they have incurred would further chill public debate and freedom of expression,” he said.
“This fear is being fulfilled more quickly than I thought. And it is shared by many senior voices of all political persuasions who have intervened to say that this police investigation is neither proportionate nor in the best interests of preserving proper freedom of expression and reporting.”
Grimes called the investigation a “gross abuse of taxpayer cash and police time” and a “dangerous precedent.”
I will be requesting a copy of the CPS advice that led to the intervention irrespective of whether they proceed or not, the dangerous precedent that this case could set for broadcasters and journalists must be challenged.
— Darren Grimes (@darrengrimes_) October 14, 2020
“We need an urgent review of the unprecedented use of this legislation to attack press freedom,” the broadcaster wrote on Twitter.
FSU said the only person Starkey stirred up hatred against is himself.
“The Public Order Act, which criminalises stirring up racial hatred, is intended to preserve public order, not regulate speech and debate,” the FCU said in a statement.
“If the police start abusing it in this way to intimidate and harass people who dissent from woke orthodoxy they will undermine the rule of law.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel has also voiced her support for Grimes, a day after he publicised the investigation.
She “can’t comment” on particular cases, Patel wrote on Twitter, “but as a general principle, it’s important the law protects freedom of speech.”
Decisions of the police to investigate particular cases are clearly an operational matter for them which I can’t comment on, but as a general principle, it’s important the law protects freedom of speech.
— Priti Patel (@pritipatel) October 10, 2020
Starkey made a comment regarding slavery, which was perceived by many as racist, while interviewed by the show’s host Grimes, in an episode advertised as a discussion of “the scholarship behind the laudable slogan of Black Lives Matter, compared to the movement seeking to delegitimate [sic] British history.”
“Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there?” Starkey said.
“An awful lot of them survived, and again, there’s no point in arguing against globalisation or Western civilisation. They are all products of it, we are all products of it,” he added.
The historian has since relinquished his honorary fellowship at a University of Cambridge college, lost his job at another university, and been dropped by the publisher of his books.
Starkey later said he was “very sorry” for the “deplorably inflammatory” words he used, and wanted to”apologise unreservedly for the offence it caused.”
He said his “blundering use of language” was a misrepresentation of his view on race and multiculturalism, and hoped it would not restrict open discussion of history, since “a tradition of free speech” was “central” to British history.
Grimes, also criticised for giving Starkey a platform, said he and his show “does not support or condone Dr. David Starkey’s words.”
The 27 years old show host apologised for having not picked up on the words and challenge Starkey about them.
When asked what he thought about Starkey’s apology, Grimes said he thought of forgiveness.
“What I thought when I read that statement was about the importance of forgiveness. … and being able to accept someone saying ‘I am sorry for what I said. I did wrong, I did a bad thing,’” Grimes told talkRADIO.
“It sounds really reductive and like a really simplistic thing to say, but I think all too often, we are all too willing to eradicate someone entirely without hearing them out. So I hope people have heard him out,” he added.