Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-139)|
16 NOVEMBER 2004
GRUNWALD QC, MR
Q120 Mr Prosser: You mentioned that point
in your written evidence. Those are quite well known cases but
how generally widespread is this issue of the police tipping off
the press and providing the photo opportunity for these events?
Mr Khan: We do not know whether
it is as common as we fear it is but the question needs to be
askedno journalist will disclose their sourcehow
can journalists report so quickly, often with TV footage, of these
arrests being made? There is a concern. There is also a concern
about whether anybody arrested, if they are charged, can receive
a fair trial, bearing in mind all the hoo-hah that goes on when
an arrest is made. There are issues regarding the Attorney General's
powers on contempt of court. There is a concern when an arrest
is made and the press publicise it. The Home Secretary once or
twice has said unhelpful things about the presumption of innocence,
due process and that has been published and printed to a potential
pool of jurors who will read this and a month later will be trying
Q121 Mr Prosser: Mr Singh, the Board
of Deputies have told us in their evidence that the incidents
of anti-Semitic attacks have been covered quite sympathetically
in the British press. With that background, how important is the
media coverage in all that goes on?
Mr Jagdeesh Singh: We have found
personally that the national press has not paid any coverage to
the attacks on Sikh individuals whatsoever. It is a tragic contrast
to coverage that has duly been given to the anti-Semitic attacks,
bringing them to the public fore, bringing them to public attention
and to the attention of decision makers in society, MPs and politicians.
In contrast, the equally savage and equally far more numerous
attacks on Sikhs have gone completely uncovered by the national
newspapers. That is a deeply disturbing situation for the Sikh
community. Why is that? Why this disinterest in the attacks on
the Sikh community? It is very puzzling. It is very disturbing.
It is a matter of great concern to us. In contrast, regional newspapers,
local papers in local towns, have done important, powerful stories
but that is where they remain. That is a matter of great concern.
What is it about the national media psyche that brings them to
have such disinterest in the attacks on the Sikh community? We
feel that there is a pervasive culture of disinterest on racist
attacks in the Sikh community. Is it because the whole phenomenon
of racist attacks on the Sikh community that has been there for
many decades is something which is only now being shouted about,
is only now being vocalised in a significant way and therefore
there is this culture of disinterest still. Black people get attacked.
Jewish people get attacked. Muslim people get attacked but we
have never heard of Sikh people getting attacked. Therefore, it
will take a bit of a time for the issue to register with us. The
fact of the matter remains we feel deeply aggrieved that the message
of attacks on Sikhs is certainly not filtering through the media
and the media is not performing its role. On a wider scale, noting
that the media is essentially a private, independent entity with
private, independent functions, we equally stressI think
this is self-evident and not a matter of argument in any sensethe
media have a public function, a public information role, a public
service role, whether they like it or not. Therefore, we feel
there needs to be a lot more regulation and stronger regulation
of what the media does with its resources and how it processes
information than it is currently subjected to. There needs to
be a lot more than just self-regulation. The media gives us information.
We read that information. We process that information. That information
informs our decision making, as it does on many aspects of society,
ordinary people, ordinary residents, Members of Parliament, decision
makers in local authorities. In so many different arenas, the
media has a direct and indirect impact. Therefore, we believe
very powerfully, coming to the questions of diversity, race equality,
community cohesion, that the Race Relations Amendment Act should
have been extended to the media as well, not just left to the
traditional or conventional public service bodies. By reason of
the fact that the media have a public service role and a public
function role, albeit independent and private, they nonetheless
still have a crucial role.
Q122 Mr Prosser: Mr Khan, you said in
your evidence that you were astonished by the lack of measures
to counter the discriminatory effects of current counter terrorism
legislation. Do you want to tell us a bit more about that?
Mr Khan: There are a number of
markers we can use and objective criteria to see how successful
the implementation of the legislation has been. For example, section
44 of the Terrorism Act allows stop and search without reasonable
suspicion. As a consequence, we have seen a more than 300% increased
rise in stops and searches of "Asians". There are no
records kept by faith. We have examples of individuals who are
white but are visible Muslims because of the beard and other things,
who have had their house searched, have been searched in the street
and arrested. They all come under this categorisation because
they are white. There are issues about whether the definition
of ethnicity is enough to gauge the number of arrests made of
Muslims. There have been more than 600 arrests. There have been
48 or so charges, 14 convictions and only three of the four were
of the Muslim faith. The others were loyalists to Irish activities.
We also have those who are detained indefinitely. What you have
are measures of success which show that the way the legislation
has been implemented has a disproportionate impact on Muslims,
mainly British and 14 non-British. We are concerned about whether
there are systems in place to properly monitor how successful
some police forces are compared to others, that best practice
is being shared; whether, for example, there is enough independent
scrutiny of the intelligence relied upon. We understand that it
is not sensible for people like us to monitor intelligence and
its reliability but it may be appropriate for a joint select committee
in the House of Commons to be monitoring that. Either the intelligence
is extremely shoddy which is leading to so many incidents of people
being picked up, which begs a number of questions, or the intelligence
is not being used but maybe stereotyping and prejudice are being
allowed to get in the way of effective policing. The importance
is that it is incumbent upon all of us, if we are going to fight
terrorism and crime generally, to work in partnership with the
authorities, but it is not conducive to good community relations,
to encourage people to come forward and report suspicious activities,
when a week or a month previously either they themselves or family
members have been wrongfully searched or arrested or had their
Q123 Mrs Curtis-Thomas: Mr Khan, in front
of me I have a copy of the Home Affairs Report into the Anti-Terrorism,
Crime and Security Bill 2001. The British Council of Muslims submitted
evidence to that particular inquiry. I will read a paragraph of
their evidence: "The extension of incitement legislation
at this particular time is unlikely to protect Muslims. We have
grave reservations about the introduction of legislation at this
particular time". There is a signatory to these particular
statements and the entire statement was submitted on behalf of
a number of Muslim organisations. That statement conflicts very
much indeed with the statement you now give which is to say that
the lack of legislation protecting followers of multi ethnic faiths
such as Islam and the failure to outlaw incitement to religious
hatred exposes one of the most vulnerable and marginalised minorities
in the UK to further harm. One statement in 2001 and another today.
What has changed to produce this significant change of heart,
as far as you are concerned?
Mr Khan: We have always believed
that an offence of incitement against religious hatred is important.
We thought it inappropriate for emergency legislation, an emergency
Act brought in over concerns about security, to be the vehicle
for bringing in this important change in legislation. The proper
forum is for there to be legislation properly discussed in both
Houses, for there to be discussions about the balancing act between
freedom of speech and for that to be the vehicle for that to happen.
If you bring in a piece of legislation to protect a community
what you should not do presentationally is bring that in as a
sop to a community at a time when you are bringing in legislation
that is emergency, which many people believe will be used against
Q124 Mrs Curtis-Thomas: Do you think
the environment and circumstances are now adequate enough to allow
the Government to bring in an offence of incitement to religious
hatred? Do you think now is the appropriate time?
Mr Khan: The actions of the far
right groups post-9/11 and the sophisticated methods they have
used provide the government and those of us who believe legislation
is important the ammunition to show how the lacunae and loopholes
are being used by far right groups.
Q125 Mrs Curtis-Thomas: The answer is
yes then. Mr Singh, do you think now is the right time to introduce
Mr Jagdeesh Singh: Could you reiterate
Q126 Mrs Curtis-Thomas: Should there
be an offence of incitement to religious hatred?
Mr Jagdeesh Singh: We certainly
feel that conditions are correct and right for such legislation.
We feel that there are groups active from different communities,
not just traditional, white, racist groups, but equally experienced
religious groups in this country from different ethnic minority
groups as well, who are inciting religious hatred. One example
that we would cite is a prominent group called the Al-Muhajiroun,
which recently disbanded, but that group has been the subject
of much anxiety for the Sikh community because it has directed
much of its rabid hate propaganda against the Sikh community as
well as other communities like the Jewish community, the Hindu
community and others. We feel that there definitely needs to be
some legislation in place which is robust and clear cut and which
the Government needs to be ready to enforce at the right time,
in the right circumstances.
Mr Grunwald: Jews and Sikhs have
been protected by such legislation as there is at the moment because
we have been considered to be not only religious groups but ethnic
groups as well. Therefore, we could not possibly say that there
should not be legislation to extend the protection that we have
had to other groups. It must follow.
Q127 Mrs Curtis-Thomas: Mr Khan, we have
had some evidence from the National Secular Society who say that
we should not introduce legislation of this kind. How do you answer
critics of the proposal to create an offence of incitement to
religious hatred, who say both that it would not work because
of difficulties in definition religion and that it would unacceptably
restrict free speech?
Mr Khan: As far as the definition
is concerned, we already have legislation that prohibits discrimination
on the grounds of religion and belief in the employment context.
Those arguments have been had. From December last year, it is
now against the law for an employer to discriminate against somebody
on the basis of their religion or belief. The important point
raised by the Secular Society is: how do you ensure that you do
not prohibit legitimate, free speech and candour between different
faiths and those of no faith? The importance is this: the law
should be framed to outlaw incitement of hatred against persons
who are associated with a religion because of their association
with that religion. If it be the case that that falls foul of
criminal law, that is fine but we know there are examples where
there is incitement of hatred against persons due to the linkage
with, for example, Islam that is currently not able to be prosecuted.
What it is not designed to do is to open the floodgates, but that
there are safeguards in place to ensure that a prosecution can
only take place with the Attorney General's consent, for example.
We know from the race hatred legislation that Henry talked about
that, over the years, it has been used pretty successfully, although
not as much as some people would like. What it has not led to
is the floodgates opening up and comedians not being able to make
very bad jokes about different races and religions. What it has
led to perversely is far right groups having self-censorship now.
They do not openly incite hatred against Jews and Sikhs for very
obvious reasons. They would fall foul of the law but they are
a bit more subtle in inciting hatred against persons associated
Q128 Mrs Dean: Mr Khan, you are critical
of the stop and search powers created by the Terrorist Act. What
do you think would have been a reasonable response to the greater
threat of terror worldwide after 11 September?
Mr Khan: Do you mean generally
or stop and search?
Q129 Mrs Dean: Generally and stop and
Mr Khan: In our view, stop and
search is a legitimate tool for police when it comes to fighting
crime. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act allows the police
to stop and search if they have reasonable suspicion that an offence
has been committed. The Terrorism Act allowed the authorities
to deem an area a designated area to allow the police to stop
and search even without suspicion. If, for example, the police
received a tip-off that there was going to be a bomb in Canary
Wharf, it seems sensible for the police to be able to stop and
search anybody going in and out of Canary Wharf. The problem is
that the whole of Greater London has been deemed a designated
area. It is possible for the police to stop and search anybody
in London, even without reasonable suspicion. Our view is that
was not the intention behind this piece of legislation. That is
one example on stop and search. It is not a problem with intelligence
led, proper policing. As far as other measures that could be used,
we have seen that no other European country, for example, suspended
Article 5 of the European Convention, the right to liberty. Other
countries have used other forms of surveillance, whether it is
covert surveillance or telephone tapping. Another thing discussed
by the Home Secretary which we have no objections to and we welcome
is the use of telephone taps in court proceedings. We do not see
any objection to that on human rights grounds. The objection to
that comes from the security services about unsavoury characters
then knowing what is being tapped and how they are tapping. We
cannot see any objection to that. We have seen in some countries
the use of restriction orders so people have to report regularly
to the police, and we have one case where one of those detained
indefinitely is now under house arrest. Thus it is possible to
keep an eye on those deemed to be a threat to national security,
but the basic point is this: if somebody is suspected of having
committed a criminal offence or is suspected of planning to commit
a criminal offence, there is enough legislation to charge them
and for them to have an open and fair trial. Conspiracy and other
offences already exist.
Q130 Mrs Dean: Thank you. Statistics
show wide regional variations in the use of stop and search powers.
Why do you think different forces use them in different ways and
to different extents?
Mr Khan: That is one of the things
we raised some time ago. One of the things when I was here last
time was we welcomed the announcement by Hazel Blears of a Stop
and Search Action Team. We have heard nothing about it since.
One of the things that needs to be looked at is best practice
and bad practice. If, for example, in Greater Manchester (I am
just making this up) there are only 20 people stopped and searched
using this piece of legislation, but it has led to eight arrests,
four charges and one conviction, that is not bad. If, for example,
you have in the Met Police 3,000 stops and searches, zero arrests
and zero convictions, then serious questions need to be asked.
One of the problems is that there is no proper monitoring and
analysis of stop and search. The Met Police Authority did some
very good work in the scrutiny committee on the use of stop and
search in London. Nobody else around the country has. The Home
Office promised us leadership back in July with a Stop and Search
Action Team but so far we have not seen the fruits of any evidence
of that. There is a real issue about best practice and bad practice.
Q131 Mrs Dean: Mr Singh, do you have
any comment to make on the variations in the use of stop and search
between different forces?
Mr Jagdeesh Singh: I would make
two very quick comments. As a community we have not experienced
anything significant in terms of stop and search both prior to
the recent terrorist legislation and post the terrorist legislation,
so we do not have any significant concerns with regards to our
experience of stop and search. Equally, we are mindful of the
concerns raised by the Muslim community. We have read their document
and the comments they raise do make significant reading and the
disparities that have just been raised again now by Sadiq between
the large numbers of stop and searches and zero output in terms
of end product also make alarming reading and we can share their
sense of concern on this. We recognise the importance of stop
and search as a tool in preventing terrorism and fighting crime
and so forth, but we recognise equally that there needs to be
some more conscientious effort made to carry out stop and search
in such a way that it is substantively fair and is seen to be
fair and proper. The current concerns do not give a reassuring
picture and therefore we share those concerns.
Q132 Mrs Dean: You have no evidence of
increased stop and search of Sikh communities?
Mr Singh: For the simple reason
as Sadiq has said quite plainly, that with stop and search as
with racist attacks on Sikhs, as with many other forms of crime
on Sikhs and on Muslims and many other groups, there is no form
of monitoring. If I were to be stopped and searched tomorrow on
the street, there is no mechanism by any police force in place
now which would register the fact that Jagdeesh Singh was stopped
and searched on such-and-such a road, a person of Sikh ethnic
origin, a person of Sikh religion. I would just be a blob on their
report with no ethnic or religious significance. That is one of
the core issues that we have highlighted in our document and hope
to further elaborate on during the course of our discussion today.
There needs to be comprehensive and clear-cut monitoring so that
you know which groups are being stopped and you know which groups
are being victimised and you know which groups are being subjected
to the criminal process in whichever way they are.
Q133 Mrs Dean: Could I ask Mr Grunwald,
do you have any information that you could give us on the variations
between authorities on stop and search?
Mr Grunwald: No we do not, I am
afraid. We cannot assist on that.
Q134 Mrs Dean: Thank you very much. Can
I ask then if either Mr Khan or Mr Singh have any feelings about
any police force that could be cited as a model of good practice
as far as this is concerned?
Mr Jagdeesh Singh: We certainly
do not know of such an example. There may well be but we are not
mindful of such an example.
Q135 Mrs Dean: Mr Khan?
Mr Khan: As I say, the police
have a hard time and we recognise that. I think that the Met Police
deserve a mention. You have a Met Police Authority which is holding
to account its police officers and you have a police force that
has set up a Muslim Safety Forum that meets regularly with Muslim
groups. There are issues about who is on there and the accountability
stuff but I think those are issues of detail. The main thing is
that you have senior members of the Met Police meeting with Muslim
communities and coming along to meetings. I think it is worthy
of mention as is the leadership shown by the Mayor of London and
the pilot project set up to do with recommendation 61 of the Lawrence
Report about giving records of stop and search, for example. So
if I were doing a school report on the Met I would say "work
in progress, doing okay, a lot more to be done". It is also
working very hard on recruitment and retention, so I think there
are good examples of the Met Police doing some good work but there
is clearly more that can be done.
Q136 Chairman: Can I just confirm a couple
of points. Mr Khan, you have said that you have not heard anything
from the Minister about the stop and search group that was set
up. We were told it was going to be set up in the summer. Is that
you personally or as far as you are aware the MCB?
Mr Khan: The MCB. We are involved
in the Met project. There are two separate things, Chairman. There
is a national thing and the question was about variation which
is why the national thing is more important. We are involved with
the Met Police work and Khalid is on the Met Police group, but
it is the national work which is more important with regard to
Q137 Chairman: And so far as you are
aware the MCB has had no contact about that?
Mr Sofi: Can I just explain, there
are two things. One is the Metropolitan Police has set up a stop
and search steering group. We are there but we have been told
that although the action team has not taken off fully a community
panel is being set up and ministers have identified someone as
chairman but they will announce it at the appropriate time. That
is information we were given in that steering group but nothing
else has been officially sent to us at the MCB. That was information
given to us in that steering group.
Q138 Chairman: I ask because that is
something we can pursue as a Committee.
Mr Khan: Yes, please.
Chairman: Mr Taylor?
Q139 Mr Taylor: My first question perhaps
is primarily to you, Mr Khan, if I may. You argue, I understand,
that the fact that complaints have not risen in line with stops
and searches suggests that there is a loss of confidence in the
authorities. Would you first of all confirm if that is your view
and, secondly, say what you think should be done to address the
Mr Khan: Thank you for the question.
I reread that this morning and I think it would be unfair to accuse
the IPPC of lacking the confidence of the community simply by
the low level of complaints made to the IPPC. I think that would
be unfair and probably the way it is written is not as tight as
it could be. Our views are this