After Scotland Yard dropped its ‘hate crime’ case that came about following his interview with David Starkey, Darren Grimes has filed a formal complaint over the Met’s probe against him, accusing the police of being “compelled by deference to” Black Lives Matter, an organisation that’s “overtly engaged in criminal conduct”. In the letter, Grimes notes his concerns “that senior officers in the Metropolitan Police Force appear to be making significant operational decisions on the basis of media commentary and social media posting.”
This is a formal complaint regarding Chief Super-Intendant Elisabeth Chapple who led the South West Basic Command Unit (BCU) during October 2020. We understand Chief Super-Intendant Elisabeth Chapple had overall conduct of the investigation into Messrs Darren Grimes and Dr David Starkey pursuant to an allegation of stirring up racial hatred contrary to section 22 of the Public Order Act of 1986 (the ‘allegation’). It is also a complaint against DC Imtiaz Shah who sought the attendance of Mr Grimes and Dr Starkey for interview in connection with the allegation.
On the 7th of October 2020 Mr Darren Grimes was contacted by DC Shah of the South Western BCU Public Protection Unit of the Metropolitan Police. He was invited to attend a police interview in relation to an allegation of stirring up racial hatred contrary to the Public Order Act of 1986. At the same time, an email was sent to The Bow Group, an independent Conservative think tank, which sought contact with Dr David Starkey. Dr Starkey did not receive the email until the 13th of October, given that he no longer has day-to-day involvement with the organisation.
Mr Grimes sought legal advice. On the 8th of October, Murrays Partnership Solicitors contacted DC Shah to make enquiries about the allegation. DC Shah conformed that the allegation was that Mr Grimes had committed an offence under section 22 of the Public Order Act of 1986 by broadcasting material that would be intended to or likely to stir up racial hatred. The allegation related to a broadcast interview with Dr David Starkey that Mr Grimes produced for his YouTube programme called Reasoned. The interview was broadcast on the 30th of June 2020 and discussed the Black Lives Matter movements’ views on British history. The email is at annex 1. The email from Murrays Partnership sought further details about the allegation and expressed concern with regards to the implication of such an interview for the principles of free speech and free broadcasting.DC Shah replied to that email later that day. In his reply:
- He began by indicating that the comment with regards to slavery was ‘not the only comment which has caused offence’. Of course, the allegation was not that the comments had ‘caused offence’ but that they had stirred up racial hatred.
- DC Shah then claimed that the interview contained the remark ‘so many damn blacks here’. This is not an accurate reporting of any passage of the interview. At best it represented a selective quote from a wider passage about slavery (which is discussed further below). In any event, at no point throughout the interview did Dr Starkey complain that there were ‘so many damn blacks here’. DC Shah provided a more accurate reporting of the interview content at his paragraph 3 in which he quotes the following lines: ‘Slavery was not genocide otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or Britain would there? An awful lot of them have survived’. Nonetheless, DC Shah appears to be proceeding on the basis that the remarks detailed at paragraphs (1) and (3) occur separately in the interview. This is not the case.
- DC Shah claimed: ‘The comments used by Mr Starkey in his interview with Mr Grimes were made against people who are black or of African descent’. This was completely false. The interview was tightly focussed on a group of Black Lives Matters activists. Both Mr Grimes and Dr Starkey repeatedly emphasise how the majority of these activists are in fact white and predominantly middle class.
- DC Shah continued: ‘Commentary about the comments have compared them to someone who would deny any previous genocide just because people of the same race or ethnicity who were victim of said genocide are still alive (sic)’. This passage seems to suggest that DC Shah was influenced in his interpretation of the material by ‘commentary about the comments’. This is, of course, a remarkable concession for an investigating officer to make, but it is repeated throughout his email.
- DC Shah continued: ‘The accusation made by Mr Starkey, stating that slavery was not genocide because black people still live in Britain and America can be defined as hatred against the black and African community, as well as anyone who originates from Africa’. Dr Starkey’s comments on slavery out discussed further below. They were not an ‘accusation’. In any event this represented an egregious misreading of Dr Starkey’s remarks. Dr Starkey’s comment was that slavery was not the moral equivalent of the holocaust because the political end of slavery was not the eradication of African people. It was a point about the historical status of the holocaust. It is appalling that DC Shah interpreted this as ‘hatred against the black and African community as well as anyone who originates from Africa’.
- DC Shah continued ‘you state that it was only days after the video was uploaded that Mr Grimes made this apology however, the question remains as to why this, bearing in mind of the incidents occurring during this time period (Black Lives Matter movement) had taken this long’. Mr Grimes had removed the comments regarding slavery and publicly apologised on the 2nd of July. Dr Starkey apologised on the 6th of July. DC Shah appears to be critical of Mr Grimes for taking 3 days to remove the relevant content and apologise. DC Shah appears influenced in his interpretation of Mr Grimes’ conduct by the ‘time period’ and what he refers to as ‘Black Lives Matter movement’. It is a theme of DC Shah’s response that the ‘Black Lives Matter movement requires deference. This is in spite of the fact that the Black Lives Matter movement (1) engaged in illegal demonstrations repeatedly throughout the nationwide lockdown (2) engaged in criminal vandalism of significant cultural monuments in the City of London (3) engaged in inflammatory language with regards to racial tensions, including referring to ‘whiteness’ as a ‘psychosis’ that ought to be ‘abolished’. I have never read email correspondence from a senior officer which appears to encourage humility before a ‘movement’ which has repeatedly engaged in serious criminality.
- DC Shah continued: ‘It (the interview) also raised a considerable amount of concern with members of the public and those in more of a prominent position in society’ (our emphasis). This is a disturbing remark. Firstly, DC Shah appears top believe that ‘those in more of a prominent position in society’ ought to have greater weight attached to their complaints to the police than those in any other position in society. It is not known what these ‘prominent positions’ are. However, it appears that the only sensible reading of this remark is that DC Shah was influenced in his interpretation of the evidence by commentators and journalists, or other figures on social media.
- DC Shah continued: ‘During June 2020, racial tensions were high with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement protesting. Their aim was to address the issues of race in modern society and called for reform’. Again, DC Shah appears to encourage deference to a movement that consistently engaged in criminal conduct. He assumes from the fact of the demonstrations that ‘racial tensions were high’. It is simply not clear how DC Shah assumed that racial tensions were ‘high’ on the basis of the BLM Demonstrations. There was no evidence of heightened racial tensions in the wider community. Again, DC Shah appears to be influenced in his interpretation of the evidence by media commentary and comments and social media.
- DC Shah continued: ‘With such high tensions in society, ‘it could be argued that Mr Grimes would have understood the consequences of broadcasting Mr Starkey’s comments during this specific time period’. DC Shah clearly misunderstands his investigative obligation. It is not the proper role of a Detective Constable to investigate on the basis of what ‘could be argued’.
- DC Shah continued: ‘Posting this interview during this particular time, makes it difficult to say that Mr Grimes would not have realised the consequences of doing so because the interview made specific reference the BLM movement’. DC Shah appears to be suggesting in this passage that any criticism of the BLM movement was liable to stir up racial hatred. Of course, there was a lot of mainstream criticism of the BLM movement during May and June 2020.
- DC Shah continued: ‘Can you advise as to whether you have viewed this interview in its entirety and also the number of responses from member of the public and reports from the press such as the BBC and SKY?’ DC Shah now explicitly states that he has been influenced in his interpretation of the evidence by ‘reports from the press such as BBC and Sky’. I have never known an officer to be so open about his adopting of improper influence.
- DC Shah claims that he is inviting Mr Grimes to interview ‘at the request’ of the CPS. Of course, the CPS can offer legal advice. It is not known why the CPS would have ‘requested’ that the interview occur. We have sought copies of the relevant advice under the terms of a Subject Access Request.
- DC Shah then wrote: ‘There is no insinuation that any party is guilty of any offence, the interview will allow for a better understanding and clarification as to whether an offence has been committed or not’. If there was ‘no insinuation that any party is guilty of an offence’ then it could not sensibly be said that an interview was necessary to advance the investigation. Nonetheless, DC Shah set out the grounds on which he would seek Mr Grimes’ arrest were he to fail to attend an interview. He made clear that if there is any refusal or co-operation to attend, Mr Grimes will be arrested and bought in to police custody. This, of course, caused substantial distress to Mr Grimes. Mr Grimes is a public individual with a significant profile. The fact of his attendance at the police station would have caused significant reputational damage.
- Following the correspondence with Mr Grimes, arrangements were made to attend an interview on the 16th of October at 1000.
- Dr Starkey was forwarded the correspondence from DC Shah and he took legal advice. On the 13th of October Murrays Partnership wrote to DC Shah inviting him to provide suitable dates to interview Dr Starkey. No reply was forthcoming.
- The investigation was discontinued on the 21st of October 2020 following the intervention of a ‘senior officer’ on the 14th of October 2020. The relevant correspondence between Murrays Partnership Solicitors and DI Laura Semple is exhibited at annex 2
- An offence under section 22 of the Public Order Act of 1986 requires that ‘threatening, abusive or insulting’ sounds be broadcast in a programme. It further requires that a person (1) intend to stir up racial hatred or that (2) having regard to all the circumstances racial hatred is likely to be stirred up thereby.
- Caselaw makes clear that being ‘likely to’ stir up racial hatred is not the same as being liable’ to stir up racial hatred. Being ‘likely to stir up’ racial hatred is a higher standard than merely being ‘liable to’.
- Firstly, as a matter of law, the term ‘damn blacks’ is not inherently ‘threatening, abusive or insulting’. Those words are clearly capable of being offensive, upsetting and were certainly liable (and did) cause offence to large numbers of people. However, it is plain on a review of the footage that Dr Starkey used term ‘damn’ in a way that emphasised the number of people who survived their experience of slavery. It is quite clear that he was not expressing resentment to any individual in the present for surviving slavery.
- The comment about slavery was situated in an interview in which the merits of culturally diverse societies were actively celebrated. By way of example, at 7.48 in the video, Mr Grimes celebrated the ‘incredibly good…race relations’ that persist in this country’ (the UK). Mr Grimes then criticised the perceived efforts of the BLM activists to ‘stir up racial hatred’. He said that our diverse society ‘works well’. Dr Starkey and Mr Grimes addressed extensively how racial relations are being harmed by the Black Lives Matter movement. At 29.20 in the interview Mr Grimes described the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ as being ‘entirely laudable.’ A central theme of the discussion focussed on how BLM activists themselves were wrong to stir up racial hatred. As mentioned above, they have by way of example be known to comment on how ‘whiteness’ is a ‘psychosis’ and a disease.
- The wider content of the interview makes it impossible to conceive of this footage falling within either of the statutory test. The broadcast was a discussion of a particular demonstration movement. The YoutTube channel ‘Reasoned’ was a conservative channel established to critique established progressive movements of the day, including Black Lives Matter. Reasoned was certainly not alone in criticising Black Lives Matter. This movement has been subject to criticism by commentators across the political spectrum.
- Between 00.20 and around Mr Grimes and Mr Starkey discuss the desecration of monuments by Black Lives Matter activists. Dr Starkey at 3.11 emphasises the contribution of ‘white, black’ and ‘Indian’ soldiers ‘who fought for freedom in two World Wars. Dr Starkey then emphasised the ‘white support’ for Black Lives Matter. He drew attention to the fact that ‘these are the same people’ who ‘work themselves into a lather’ about leaving the European Union. It is a ‘form of arrogant middle-class patronage’. This was a comment on the middle-class make-up of the BLM activists.
- At 7.42 Mr Grimes and Dr Starkey discussed the impact of the BLM activists and the left-wing media in stirring up race relations. Mr Grimes celebrated the fact that in the UK we have ‘fantastic race relations’. We were ‘one of the most diverse countries in the world, especially in London’. Mr Grimes said that this ‘works well’. Mr Grimes then questioned what, on the basis of our comparatively harmonious race relations, justified the importation of the BLM movement ‘to our shores’. Dr Starkey agrees that Mr Grimes ‘summarised it brilliantly’ (08.38). Dr Starkey talks about blacks in Britain ‘borrowed from America’ in aspects of their culture and politics.
- Dr Starkey’s remarks about slavery begin at 09.14. He begins by pointing out that we ‘tore ourselves apart’ over slavery. This is contrary to the commonly held idea that we ‘don’t talk about slavery enough’, which is a common claim of BLM activists.
- Dr Starkey then talked favourably about the might of the British Navy and its role in ending the slave trade (09.42). He then repeats that we have imported the ‘worst side’ of American black culture. He talks about the role of black victimhood in black politics. He says that they ‘rejected Martin Luther King’ and adopted ‘Al Sharpton’. This is a particular point about the nature of black activism which has been made by prominent black thinkers in the US and the UK. He maintains that the ‘principal victims’ of this culture of victimhood are ‘young black men’ (11.04).
- Dr Starkey then talks about the misleading impression put forward by BLM activists that black men are regularly killed by the police (11.12). He says that the people who kill young black men are ‘other young black men – in terrifying numbers’. (11.23) Here Dr Starkey is expressing obvious concern for violence against young black men. He talks about the lack of media commentary over black on black violence (11.44) expressing concern with the disproportionate focus on police violence. At (12.15) Dr Starkey complains that this does not ‘advance racial justice’.
- Dr Starkey then talks about ‘scholarship around black history. Dr Starkey and Mr Grimes then talked about the cultural pressure to include black historical figures in equal esteem to white figures. Dr Starkey discusses Mary Seacole and her role in the Crimean war, which Dr Starkey believes to be overblown (16.40).
- At (20.11) the participants discussed the movement to ‘decolonise the curriculum’. Dr Starkey said that activists ought not call to decolonise the curriculum because they are ‘wholly the product of white colonisation’. He says that BLM activists are not ‘culturally black Africans’. He described how most of the people on the BLM protests were a ‘product of racial mix’ (20.37). Dr Starkey was highlighting that young British black people are a product of racial integration and British cultural traditions (assuming of course they were raised in Britain) rather than those cultural traditions which arise on the continent of Africa. In other words, many of the young BLM activists are young Britons rather than young ‘Africans’. Dr Starkey cites this as a cause for celebration.
- Dr Starkey then says that the reason many young black people are in Britain today is ‘because of slavery’ which he calls the ‘compulsory diaspora’. This is, of course, true and acknowledged by a range of academic historians. This leads Dr Starkey to make the remark that ‘slavery is not the holocaust’. Dr Starkey was drawing a distinction between the stated political ends of the holocaust, which was the complete destruction of the Jewish race, and the political ends of slavery – which were the buying and selling of human beings as legal property. Dr Starkey’s point was that the purpose of slavery was not to eradicate cultural Africans from the face of the planet.
- The participants then discussed why we continue to discus slavery when the question has ‘been settled’ for hundreds of years. This leads participants back to discussing the point that BLM activists innappropriately import aspects of black activism into this country.
- At 29.20 Mr Grimes described the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ as ‘entirely laudable’ and asked ‘who wouldn’t’ agree with it. He then criticised the Black Lives Matter ‘activists’ which he described as a ‘Marxist outfit’ behind that slogan. Mr Grimes criticised their stated strategy to ‘abolish our police force’. Mr Grimes asked what any of these goals had to do with black lives. At around 30.00 Dr Starkey described how one academic associated with the BLM movement wanted to ‘abolish whiteness’, a remark explicitly intended (it seems) to stir up racial hatred.
- At 31.21 Dr Starkey discussed how the BLM movement is a form of ‘displacement activity’ for those who ‘lost the referendum’. Dr Starkey was arguing that much of the BLM movement was made up of individuals who were politically sympathetic to ‘Remain’ in the referendum. Again, the focus in on the BLM activists, who are both white and black.
It is not understood that the balance of the interview was considered relevant to this enquiry.
Seeking Mr Grimes and Dr Starkey for interview caused significant distress on behalf of both parties. It exposed them to the most serious risk of reputational damage.
We are deeply concerned that senior officers in the Metropolitan Police Force appear to be making significant operational decisions on the basis of media commentary and social media posting. We do not know whether DC Shah was solely responsible for drafting his email or whether he sought assistance from more senior officers. However, we say that DC Shah’s email is prima facie evidence that:
- This investigation was primarily compelled by deference to an organisation who had overtly engaged in criminal conduct (the ‘BLM’ movement);
- Was also influenced in its interpretation of the evidence by media commentary and postings on social media, as well as the views of those ‘in more prominent positions’.
As a result, two broadcast journalists have been threatened with arrest. This caused significant distress and risked serious reputational damage.
In issuing this complaint we seek the following redress:
- A formal apology from the Metropolitan Police for seeking an interview with Messrs Grimes and Dr Starkey;
- All correspondence relevant to the decision to interview Messrs Grimes and Starkey in relation to the allegation;
- The initial allegation received from Durham Police on the 4th of July 2020;
- The file prepared for the Crown Prosecution Service for the purpose of obtaining early investigation advice;
- The CPS pre-investigation advice received from the Crown Prosecution Service on the 25th of September or any related early investigative advice received with respect to the allegation;
- Any instructions to DC Shah to undertake interviews pursuant to the allegation;
- The details of any review process that was undertaken with respect to that decision;
- Any notes of any telephone calls, personal attendances or meetings related to the allegation.