Journalist Darren Grimes and historian David Starkey today launched a formal complaint over Scotland Yard’s handling of a ‘race hate’ probe.
They are seeking an apology from the Metropolitan Police for causing ‘significant distress’ and exposing them to the ‘most serious risk of reputational damage’ as they investigated the pair for allegedly stirring up racial hatred.
In a copy of the complaint seen by MailOnline, Mr Grimes and Dr Starkey through their lawyer Luke Gittos also claim that senior officers in the force made ‘significant operational decisions on the basis of media commentary and social media posting’.
The complaint adds that the Met’s investigation of Dr Starkey’s remarks, which were made in June, was ‘primarily compelled by deference to’ Black Lives Matter – an ‘organisation’, the letter claims, which had ‘overtly engaged in criminal conduct’.
Last week the Met Police dropped the probe after its decision to investigate Mr Grimes, 27, and Dr Starkey, 75, sparked a ferocious freedom of speech backlash.
The investigation related to a public order offence allegedly committed during an interview given on Mr Grimes’ YouTube Channel at the height of the BLM protests.
Author Dr Starkey had controversially claimed ‘slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain’.
The pair apologised for the ill-judged remarks, while Dr Starkey resigned his fellowship from Cambridge University and lost a book deal with HarperCollins.
Scotland Yard’s subsequent decision to then investigate them under the Public Order Act was criticised by politicians including Home Secretary Priti Patel, ex-Tory chancellor Sajid Javid and former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron.
Journalist Darren Grimes and historian David Starkey today launched a formal complaint over Scotland Yard’s handling of a ‘race hate’ probe
Dr Starkey had claimed ‘slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain’. He apologised for the controversial remarks, resigned his fellowship from Cambridge University and lost a book deal with HarperCollins
The complaint adds that Scotland Yard’s investigation of Dr Starkey’s remarks, which were made in June, was ‘primarily compelled by deference to’ Black Lives Matter – an ‘organisation’, the letter claims, which had ‘overtly engaged in criminal conduct’ (pictured, Cressida Dick)
Lord Macdonald, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, slammed the ‘sinister and foolish’ decision of the police to investigate the pair, calling it a ‘political stunt’.
Journalists including Douglas Murray, associate editor of The Spectator magazine, and Toby Young of the Free Speech Union also lined up to blast the ‘absurd’ probe.
Scotland Yard then retreated from its decision to investigate them, announcing that it was reviewing the case to ensure it was ‘proportionate’.
Mr Grimes and Dr Starkey have also complained about the conduct of DC Imtiaz Shah, who the letter says invited them to a police interview in October.
Pro-Brexit blogger Mr Grimes, who has previously been pursued for allegedly flouting electoral law during the 2016 EU referendum, is now seeking a formal apology from the force for seeking an interview with him and Dr Starkey.
They are also requesting copies of all correspondence relevant to the decision to interview them, the initial allegation received from Durham Police on July 4, instructions to DC Shah to undertake interviews pursuant to the allegation, and notes of any calls, personal attendances or meetings related to the allegation.
MailOnline has contacted the Met Police for comment.
Toby Young, general secretary of the Free Speech Union, said the use of the Public Order Act to ‘regulate speech and debate’ had a ‘chilling effect on free speech’.
He said ‘it is not the police’s job to investigate thought crimes’, adding: ‘The Metropolitan Police made a serious mistake in deciding to investigate Dr David Starkey and Darren Grimes and should apologise.’
Tory MP Ben Bradley told MailOnline: ‘I think Darren is quite right to expect a thorough investigation and explanation for what’s happened, particularly as it’s not the first time he’s been targeted in this way.
The pair apologised for the controversial remarks, while Dr Starkey (left) resigned his fellowship from Cambridge University and lost a book deal with HarperCollins
Mr Grimes, who was investigated for allegedly violating electoral laws during the 2016 EU referendum, said he is ‘delighted to be free from months, if not years, of yet more legal drama’
‘The impact on his life over years now of false investigations and widespread lies about him and his character are just awful, and he deserves some justice for that.’
The complaint states that Murrays Partnership Solicitors contacted DC Shah on October 8 to make enquiries about the allegation of stirring up racial hatred, a public order offence which carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail.
Scotland Yard ‘race hate’ probe into ‘damn blacks’ interview was led by PR chief with just six years of experience – while Met chief Cressida Dick ‘only knew about inquiry after press blacklash’
Chief Superintendent Elisabeth Chapple
By James Fielding for MailOnline
MailOnline can now reveal that the controversial investigation into Mr Grimes and Dr Starkey was conducted by a unit whose new commander has only been in the Metropolitan Police force for the last six years.
It has also emerged that Met Commissioner Cressida Dick was only made aware of the probe after the furore blew up in the media on October 9.
The Met Police’s South-West Basic Command Unit (BCU) – led by Chief Superintendent Elisabeth Chapple – was pursuing Mr Grimes for allegedly stirring up racial hatred in an interview with Dr Starkey.
Chief Supt Chapple joined Scotland Yard as an entry level superintendent in November 2014, having previously held down roles in Human Resources across the banking and finance sector.
She was head of HR for the People Delivery Team at Santander before joining the Met. Prior to that she had a 13-year career working for accountancy firm KPMG.
On joining the Met, Chief Supt Chapple became the force’s spokeswoman for the Notting Hill Carnival, announcing knife arches at the event in 2018 and warning officers not to dance with revellers last year.
She took over running the London South West BCU, which has 1,300 officers working the boroughs of Wandsworth, Kingston-upon-Thames, Merton and Richmond, from Chief Supt Sally Benatar who retired after 39-years with the force at the start of September.
The investigation into Mr Grimes was launched at the end of September – a few weeks after Chief Superintendent Chapple had taken over.
The Met has said it was passed an allegation from Durham Police of a public order offence relating to a social media video posted on June 30.
Sources within the force have expressed surprise that the Met Commissioner was not given prior notice of this investigation taking place with one saying: ‘To not have been personally briefed on an investigation which was obviously going to put the force under fire I find hard to believe. She must have been briefed and not only that given her full approval for it to go ahead.’
However a Scotland Yard insider revealed: ‘All the evidence points to the Commissioner not knowing until when the story first blew up.
‘The Met is a huge force with thousands of investigation taking place, it would impossible for her to be briefed on every one of them.’
DC Shah is accused of indicating to Mr Gittos, the lawyer, in an email that the comment with regards to slavery was ‘not the only comment which has caused offence’. The complaint points out that the allegation was ‘not that the comments had ’caused offence’.
The letter states that DC Shah claimed that the interview contained the remark ‘so many damn blacks here’, which the lawyer claims ‘is not an accurate reporting of any passage of the interview’ and was ‘at best… a selective quote from a wider passage about slavery’.
DC Shah then allegedly told Mr Grimes and Dr Starkey’s lawyer that Dr Starkey’s remarks ‘were made against people who are black or of African descent’.
The complaint rubbishes this statement, calling it ‘completely false’ and adding that ‘the interview was tightly focussed on a group of Black Lives Matter activists’.
It adds: ‘Both Mr Grimes and Dr Starkey repeatedly emphasise how the majority of these activists are in fact white and predominantly middle-class’.
DC Shah is then accused of telling the lawyer that ‘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 victims of said genocide are still alive’.
The complaint responds: ‘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.’
Their lawyer then accuses DC Shah of being ‘influenced in his interpretation of the evidence by commentators and journalists, or other figures on social media’ after the officer suggests that the interview ‘also raised a considerable amount of concern with members of the public and those in more of a prominent position in society’.
The officer then wrote: ‘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.’
According to Mr Grimes and Dr Starkey through their lawyer, however, DC Shah had appeared ‘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,’ the complaint states.
‘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 wrote to their lawyer: ‘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’.
But the complaint suggests that DC Shah ‘clearly misunderstands his investigate obligation’, adding: ‘It is not the proper role of a Detective Constable to investigate on the basis of what ‘could be argued’.’
The officer then wrote: ‘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’.
Mr Grimes and Dr Starkey through their lawyer argue that ‘DC Shah appears to be suggesting in this passage that any criticism of the BLM movement was liable to stir up racial hatred’.
The complaint then states that DC Shaha ‘explicitly’ says that he was by BBC and Sky News’ coverage of the row after he asked: ‘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?’
Mr Grimes and Dr Starkey through their lawyer state: ‘I have never known an officer to be so open about his adopting of improper influence.’
DC Shah then set out the grounds on which he would seek Mr Grimes and Dr Starkey’s arrest were they to fail to attend an interview.
The complaint says that the officer ‘made clear that if there is any refusal or co-operation to attend, Mr Grimes will be arrested and bought in to police custody’.
Tim Farron, the former Lib Dem leader, added: ‘There might be more than meets the eye here, but on the face of it this is completely ridiculous’
However, the Met Police have come under fire for its decision to investigate Grimes, with Tory backbencher Sajid Javid calling the decision ‘plainly absurd’
Ben Bradley, Conservative MP for Mansfield, angrily tweeted: ‘God save the world when people being offended makes something a criminal offence!!’
Douglas Murray, author and editor of The Spectator magazine, said: This is not the behaviour of a police force in a free society. ‘Hauling someone into a police station for something someone said to them in an interview? Shame on the @metpolice uk’
According to Mr Grimes and Dr Starkey through their lawyer: ‘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.’
In the formal complaint, their lawyer suggests that ‘as a matter of law’, Dr Starkey’s use of the term ‘damn blacks’ is not ‘inherently ‘threatening, abusive or insulting’.
Pointing to case law which says that an offence under Section 22 of the Public Order Act requires that a person ‘intend to stir up racial hatred’, the complaint states: ‘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 complaint goes on: ‘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.
During the interview on Mr Grimes’ Reasoned UK channel, Dr Starkey claimed ‘slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain’
Journalist Darren Grimes and historian David Starkey today launched a formal complaint over Scotland Yard’s handling of a ‘race hate’ probe
‘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 his investigation was primarily compelled by deference to an organisation who had overtly engaged in criminal conduct (the ‘BLM’ movement)’.
It also suggests that DC Shah’s investigation ‘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,’ the complaint adds.