Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-46)

Thursday 8 July 2004


  Q40 Mrs Dean: Sir John, in your report you mention the quality of the encounter as a crucial issue and point to the limited level of training given to police officers. What constitutes a good encounter in your view and what changes in police training do you think there should be?

  Sir John Quinton: A good encounter is one that is courteously handled and, as you probably know, in the Metropolitan Police we have piloted and are now introducing Met-wide the business of giving the person who is stopped a written record of that. A good search is one where the person goes away understanding why it is that he or she has been searched and accepting that that was done for a legitimate purpose.

  Q41 Mrs Dean: Turning to how relationships between religious and ethnic minority communities and the police can be improved, how could the police ensure that arrest and detention or stop and search powers do not worsen the relationship?

  Mr Phillips: We know from surveys that have been done in the past that the experience of being stopped and searched is very different for a white middle-aged man than it is for a young black man. That is to say that the police behave differently and therefore most white middle-aged men actually do not, as far as we understand, mind it too much. There is an issue of scale but there is always an issue of the manner in which it is done. Frankly, if they could apply the manners they apply to the bank manager who is stopped to the young group of Asians who are cruising in whatever it is they are driving, then that might help a bit. Secondly, it would be a very good idea if police officers could be a little more careful about who; we still have people in turbans being stopped and treated and talked to as though they are Muslims although they are Sikhs. You could say that that is a perfectly understandable thing and you should not need to have the full blown race and religion training, but being stopped itself is a moderately traumatic experience and then being treated as if you are something which you are manifestly not, makes the whole experience much, much worse. The third thing I would say—and I know I have sung this tune already—we need to know numbers, particularly from different forces. One reason why we need to know numbers is not just to beat people with a big stick but also to identify where there is good practice. We knew that under PACE there are some forces which have a ratio black to white of, say eight to one, but there are other forces which have a ratio of four to one. There are some forces where, when you do the surveys, people's reaction to stop and search is hugely hostile; in other forces it is not so hostile. We could learn from the experience of where it is successful or less unsuccessful to be more precise.

  Q42 Mrs Dean: Mr Khan, the Muslim Council has met several times with the Home Secretary to discuss your concerns. What has been the outcome of those meetings? Have you met with other groups, such as police force representatives?

  Mr Khan: Yes, we have met with the Home Secretary with civil servants present, including the head of the counter intelligence unit. We have also met with Home Office officials with intelligence units there and separately. As Mr Sofi said, we have been invited to visits to see how it works in practice. We also last week met with the Director of Public Prosecution, Ken McDonald QC. The impression that we have is one of frustration, being moved from pillar to post: this is not the CPS responsibility, it is the police force responsibility; we go to the police force and it is not their responsibility but a Home Office responsibility; we go to the Home Office and they say it is really an operational matter. That is why we go straight to the Home Secretary because he can cut through all that. He has been a useful tool for us in cutting through some of that. We are hoping that a robust report from you chaps will also be an aid with regard to the concerns that we have, tongue firmly in cheek. Mr Sofi has also had experience of the frustration in the community because we are caught between two stools. One is that the community is very angry and asking what we are doing on their behalf. On the other hand, there is pressure from certain quarters for us to be—quote, unquote—sensible, moderate and all the rest of it so it is quite difficult to please both of those audiences at the same time.

  Mr Sofi: The community feels that they are being unfairly targeted here. That has led to disillusionment. The net effect is that our affiliates who work around the country, do the charity work, do the community work, they have felt these things. The community members are not now giving donations. They feel they may be arrested, it may be something associated with terrorism; they do not know. The evidence is not there. They are not participating in legitimate demonstrations on the issues they have which they might like to raise. There is disillusionment and that is not going to have any effect on how we resolve this issue of terrorism. We need the cooperation of the community and the community can only participate better if that fear is gone and the whole process of how we engage with the community is better managed. One of the things is to do proper intelligence in a way that it does not alienate the community and the way they manage publicity and the way they talk to them. There are a whole lot of issues which are coming out from the community which would need much bigger discussion.

  Q43 David Winnick: Mr Sofi and Mr Khan, know that all groups—Christian, Jew, Hindus and Sikhs—have their extremists just like the Muslim community. You could monitor various statements around the world, certain religious extremists of various kinds. The question I want to put to you, if I may, since you are before us and this seems an appropriate occasion, do you feel the visit of this particular cleric serves any useful purpose, certainly when it comes to community relations? He believes, for example, that Jews should be murdered, homosexuals should be murdered and wives should be beaten. What purpose is served by such a person being in the United Kingdom?

  Mr Khan: We are not in a position to answer that. What I can say with regard to personal views is that I would not believe all the hype, Mr Winnick. Quotes attributed to this man may or may not be true.

  Q44 David Winnick: It is being monitored by the BBC monitoring unit. Could I just read you what he said, if I may?

  Mr Khan: Could I just finish? If it was the case that these quotes were accurate the Home Secretary has power to exclude people. He can put an exclusion order on them which prevents non-EEC citizens from coming to the UK. Unfortunately he cannot stop the likes of Monsieur le Penne coming to the UK.

  Q45 David Winnick: He should do.

  Mr Khan: Quite. He has those powers at his disposal. The question I ask is, if there was concern that the comments of this gentleman could lead to incitement of racial hatred, could lead to a break up of the cohesion in our society and could lead to public order offences, I am sure he would have exercised his discretion—as he has in the past—to exclude this man. The fact that he has not gives me confidence that some of the hype we are reading may or may not be true.

  Q46 David Winnick: Could I just, with the permission of the Chairman, very briefly quote what this person has said according to the BBC monitoring unit. He said, "Oh God, destroy the usurper Jews, the vile crusaders and infidels" and that could include virtually anyone including Muslims who do not accept his particular version of Islam. Then he goes on to justify the killing of the American television engineer Nick Berg who had his head cut off. Of course Mr Sofi and Mr Khan I know that your dislike and distaste—if these remarks are accurate—are no less than ourselves. They are disliked by the overwhelming majority of Muslims, of that I do not have the slightest hesitation in my mind. It just seems to me rather odd that the Home Secretary should have allowed this person in when he has powers, as you have correctly pointed out, to stop him. Many MPs—certainly Labour MPs—are very amazed that he was allowed in and I wonder, Mr Phillips, if you have any views on the subject.

  Mr Phillips: My views about this kind of thing are pretty well known and pretty robust. I think I am probably still the only public official who has said that the Home Secretary should remove Mr Abu Hamsa and his friend Mr Omar Bakri. I am not shy about this at all. I think the issue of keeping people out of the country is a little bit more complicated and difficult. I do not know enough about Mr al-Qaradawi to say anything authoritatively about whether he should be kept out or not, but I would endorse Sadiq's point. If we cannot keep Monsieur le Penne out I think there would have to be a pretty specific test to keep this gentleman out as well. One of our difficulties I think is that the law in relation to incitement—which is what this would really revolve around—as we have seen in the last week is probably not as we would like it. If you cannot prosecute people for burning an effigy of gypsies on a bonfire with gypsy children and that cannot be said to be incitement against a particular community that is right in your midst, I do not really know if this law is actually going to be much use and I wonder if the problem for the Home Secretary is not about his distaste for this gentleman or whether the law would actually allow him to do what you or I would like to happen.

  Chairman: Thank you for responding so fully to Mr Winnick who reasonably asked a question slightly outside the brief, but a very topical point. Could I thank all the witnesses from all three organisations for their contribution this morning? I think it has been an extremely useful session and although this is not, as such, part of a wider inquiry, it has been a session of putting on the record concerns that have been expressed outside Parliament and members of the Committee felt very strongly that Parliament should have the opportunity to make sure these issues were aired here. Thank you very much indeed. We will break briefly and invite the next two witnesses to join us.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2004
Prepared 19 November 2004