NSS calls for inquiry into Undercover Mosque fiasco

The National Secular Society has called for a full public inquiry into the role of the West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service regarding the Undercover Mosque documentary.

Keith Porteus Wood:

While the Police and CPS have now apologised, they have yet to explain why this apology was not issued in response to the widespread public outcry during 2007 about their targeting of Channel 4 or even to the total rejection by OFCOM of Police/CPS complaints on 19 November 2007. It had to be forced on them by the courts. The intransigence of the Police and CPS has seriously undermined public confidence in both institutions.

“We have written to both the Attorney General and the Shadow Attorney General urging a full public inquiry into how what appear to be systematic policy and procedural failures at the Police and Crown Prosecution Service led to the justice system being brought into disrepute in this way. It is essential that lessons are learned from this failure by both the police and the CPS. The debacle raises worrying questions about the motivation behind the activities apologised for, independence of the CPS, whether all parts of the community are being treated equally and whether sufficient value is being attached to freedom of the press.

The CPS’s function is to provide an essential check and balance, but it has spectacularly failed to do so in this high profile case. Hopefully, this is not part of a pattern, but the question needs to be asked.

“The damage caused by these failures went far beyond damage to the reputation of Channel 4’s courageous ‘Undercover Mosque’ documentary makers. Their investigation should have been the foundation for a very important public discourse, essential to the public interest about the role of religion in society. This public debate was largely derailed by the excessive zeal of the WMP and the CPS whose action appeared to signal no-go areas of inquiry. This ‘shooting of the messenger’ is likely to have further intensified the attacks on freedom of expression as editors and journalists self-censor themselves in matters relating to religion to avoid the risk of prosecution. Evading discussions in this area simply allows the problems to fester and grow, giving succour to both religious and right wing extremists.

Godspeed with that one, NSS.

UPDATE (20 May) David Cameron has added his voice to the call for more police accountability as a result. In a speech in Birmingham yesterday, he said:

What I want to see is an elected police commission. Not elected police chiefs – but commissioners that will ensure with an elected mayor that the police are accountable. We do not know who police authority members are or what they do, so as a result we do not get police forces that are held responsible for their actions.
Many of us who watched the programme (Dispatches) were interested in what it had to say on the very real threat of extremists in our society. It was a worthwhile piece of work. It was something that was worth knowing about.
This issue tells us that the police need to be careful and more considered about things

2 Responses to “NSS calls for inquiry into Undercover Mosque fiasco”

  1. marc draco says:

    I think the CPS got off rather lightly, presumably that was the limit of their liability?

    The problem seems to be now is that very few papers are reporting this, whereas the original story made massive headlines IIRC.

  2. Perhaps the CPS ought now to bring a prosecution against the CPS.