Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-139)|
THURSDAY 27 JUNE 2002
Baroness Massey of Darwen
120. You said that you had an Association of
Muslim Police Officers and that you have police officers who wish
to follow their faith. My question ties in with question no.8
on the sheet and concerns where you get your insights and information
from. Clearly, you have those sources. I should like to ask you
how you get these focus groups. Who are they and who gives you
information on the issues we are talking about?
(Mr Fahy) We have had long-standing arrangements since
the Scarman Report and had meetings with representatives of various
communities, particularly with ethnic minority communities. Those
meetings have certainly been strengthened and accelerated since
September 11. We recognise that there are lots of different associations
of groups within the Muslim faith. We have tried in our meetings
to include the widest possible range of groups. We have recognised
that you have to be careful about being London-centric because
some groups are largely based in London. We are also careful about
the use of the words "community leaders" and "representative".
We have tried to include as many different groups as possible
in those discussions, and that is happening externally and internally.
We have had meetings with a range of staff associations: the Black
Police Association; Muslim Police Association; Christian Police
Association, and various staff associations. That has been very,
very powerful, hearing it from the experience of sections of our
own police officers and other members of those faiths. I am sure
Martin can say what happens in an area of particularly high ethnic
(Mr Baines) In Bradford we have extensive dialogue
and consultation with groups right across the city, both racial
groups and religious groups, such as with Sikhs, Dilwara temples,
Hindu cultural societies, the Jewish community in the city, and
also Christian churches, which play a very active role in the
communities within their district. It is also done internally
as well through the Police Association and the Christian Police
Association. We have no shortage of organisations and individuals
that we can turn to in order to consult and talk about these issues.
Baroness Massey of Darwen
121. Do you have any Muslim women involved?
(Mr Tucker) Yes, the Metropolitan Police has recently
introduced a policy whereby women Muslims can wear the Jilbab,
instead of standard uniform. I would not say we are anywhere close
to getting this right, but we are trying to become more solutions
orientated rather than looking for reasons people cannot do things.
We need to see how we can facilitate religious observance.
Earl of Mar and Kellie
122. I come from Central Scotland and am therefore
very aware that there is another dimension to this, which is the
use of largely sectarian songs and other statements at mass sporting
events, and in particular football. I believe that this does spill
over into England, into the local area anyway. We have asked about
inter-community relations; do you see this Bill as dealing with
vast numbers of football supporters, and do you think that this
will be any help in terms of sectarianism, largely a response
to historical immigration from Ireland?
(Mr Fahy) We are very aware of the Scottish situation
and indeed the Northern Ireland situation. We are watching closely
what happens with Mr Guthrie's Private Member's Bill in the Scottish
Parliament in relation to sectarian issues. Overall, our view
would be that the existing public order legislation would largely
deal with those situations, in terms of abusive, insulting and
threatening behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace.
The existing legislation would largely deal with those situations
and similar offences. Here, we are talking about actions that
threaten relationships between communities and within communities.
The action of football supporters and those sorts of people would
largely be covered by existing public order legislation. I am
not aware that Scottish forces have any difficulty in those situations.
123. You have mentioned religiously aggravated
offences in your introductory remarks. I suppose it is a bit too
early to tell us much about that, but it would be interesting
to know if you had any statistical data on numbers of religiously
aggravated offences that have been brought to court, and what
has been the outcome.
(Mr Fahy) We are not aware of any offences that have
been to court up to now. It is probably still too early. Indeed,
we would have to say that the police force in general has had
difficulty with this issue in terms of recording crimes which
are motivated by religion. To my knowledge, the only force that
does that is the Metropolitan Police, which has recently started
to record religiously aggravated offences.
(Mr Tucker) We started on 14 January this year to
record offences which are apparently motivated by faith hatred.
We have sub-divisions within the flagging system we use that recognise
a certain number of faiths; and, as far as I am aware, we are
the only force that does it.
Earl of Mar and Kellie
124. Is this determined by the victim, or by
the police officer involved, or by the potential offender?
(Mr Tucker) The answer to that is that we use the
Macpherson definition of "racist incident" and then
apply that across to religious motivation. If the victim thinks
it is, or if anybody else thinks it is, then it is.
125. How many of these offences have been recorded
by the Metropolitan Police so far? Does that mean they have recorded
allegations or does it mean they have recorded files submitted
to the CPS?
(Mr Tucker) They are incidents, so they need not even
be offences. This is picking up on the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry
Report and recommendation of the definition of "racist incident",
that all racist incidents should be recorded. We followed the
same approach with faith crimes. We do have the statistics on
that, but I do not have them with me. We have our intelligence
system that sweeps on these every day because it is a very good
potential indicator for us.
126. Have any dossiers been submitted to the
(Mr Tucker) I cannot tell you whether we have got
to the point of offences being notified to the CPS.
127. Is it possible we could have some information
about that later on?
(Mr Tucker) Certainly.
Chairman: I think the Home Office was also asked
about this sort of thing.
128. Do you think that key performance indicators
for religious aggravated offences or religious hatred could be
defined? Do you think that key performance indicators should measure
the activity of police in the wider dimension that you were talking
about, that is to say their relationships with different faiths
or racial communities, and the steps that they are taking by those
means to avert and prevent crime? Would it be possible to design
a consultative indicator that measured performance of the police
under those headings?
(Mr Fahy) We would certainly not welcome any more
performance indicators; we have more than enough to be getting
on with. Clearly, you could design one that would record the number
of incidents. The difficulty with that is that it tends to indicate
the level of confidence people have in reporting those incidents.
You certainly could design an indicator which would be around
the level of confidence within minority communities towards the
police, and that could presumably be captured by some sort of
survey. There is a difficulty there, and in this form of work,
building good community relations, it is very difficult to measure.
It can be affected by many other outside factors, but nevertheless
it is very, very important.
129. You talked about a group of Muslim officers
within the police force. It is a super idea for you to consult
them. Is what you hear from them what you hear from the Muslim
community, or do you get two different pictures?
(Mr Tucker) That is a very good question. I think
that generally the feeling on both sides, from both the Association
of Muslim Police, and the Muslim contact group, is that the rules
seem to operate disproportionately or unfairly against Muslims.
130. You are getting it from both directions.
(Mr Tucker) Yes.
Baroness Richardson of Calow
131. As a matter of clarification, I understand
you to say that it is only the Metropolitan Police that records
religiously aggravated offences.
(Mr Fahy) Yes, and that is a matter that other forces
would like, but it often requires changes to software systems,
because most police forces have different recording systems, so
it is a long-term aspiration. If we ever achieve one national
computer system for recording crime and incidents, that would
be put on it, but there is a practical difficulty. There are some
difficulties around definition, and we get to a difficulty in
the amount of material that we now are asking police officers
to record along a whole range of issues, whether drug-related,
alcohol-related, or racially aggravated. The more information
we ask officers to collect on different types of incidents and
crimes, that clearly ties them a lot to the police station, but
it also means that the data becomes more unreliable because they
get tired of filling in so many boxes and trying to remember how
many different questions they might have to consider at the scene
of the crime, for example.
132. You said earlier, Mr Fahy, that you felt
the public order offences were sufficient and adequate for the
purpose of dealing with a football crowd situation and you did
not think that the law was not adequate in that area.
(Mr Fahy) Yes.
133. So that you could have abusive behaviour
falling short of a public order offence but you would not envisage
or imagine that that needs to be covered by new legislation in
(Mr Fahy) In that context of public order legislation,
when you look at sections 4 and 5 of the Public Order Act, which
includes provisions in relation to prevention of harassment, they
are quite wide-ranging. We are creating a distinction here between
what might be action on the street between people in public order
situations, and what is the action of people who, in a more considered,
deliberate, or reckless way, may embark upon a course of action
to try and ferment hostility and ill feeling between communities.
That is the sort of distinction I would draw between the different
types of legislation.
134. That is why you think the public order
legislation does not fill that gap; in other words, why cannot
the public order legislation cover the problem we are concerned
with, just as it does in the context of a football ground?
(Mr Fahy) Because I think it does not adequately reflect
the seriousness of a course of action that is intended to create
hostility and ill feeling, or to stir up hatred against a particular
group as defined by either race or religion.
135. The behaviour would have to fall short
of committing offences under the Public Order Act, in order to
identify a gap, would it not?
(Mr Fahy) I think it is about different types of behaviour
with different intent. It seems to me that public order legislation
and Protection from Harassment Act legislation is about individual
actions on the street between people, and individual incidents.
I create a distinction between that and somebody taking an action
that is about stirring up hatred against a whole group of people.
136. It could have the same result in terms
of assaults or physical violence of some kind, but because the
motivation is entirely different, it should be regulated by a
different kind of law, or a new law.
(Mr Fahy) Yes, but I still think the individual's
action on the street is only going to have an effect on the people
who are in close contact with that course of action, whether it
is insults or fighting or threatening people; it will only affect
that small group of people. With incitement legislation, we are
talking about action that is directed against a whole community,
a group of people as defined by race or religion, with the intent
of creating ferment in society. That is why the public order legislation
cannot cover that range of different intents, and why it should
be considered that incitement to religious hatred is of such a
serious nature that it ought to be reflected in a law that reflects
137. What you have said so far leads into the
second question. You said that there is a gap that needs to be
filled. You told Lady Richardson that to a large extent the criminal
law on this is a deterrent rather than actually being put into
effect. What has changed since the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security
Act added the religious dimension to what used to be racial, in
so far as section 39 of that Act did so? What have you seen by
way of change, either in situations that you could address as
police officers, or in preventing, deterring things that you saw
going on before which have now stopped?
(Mr Fahy) There is probably no great change, because
I do not think the change in the law has been well understood
and well publicised; so to that extent it has not had a deterrent
effect. It seems to me that where it will have advantage is where
actions are directed particularly against the Muslim community,
and if somebody tried to justify that on the basis that it was
not against a racial group but against a religious group. The
law would then at least allow that to be reflected in the sentence
that was given. It is not reflected in the legislation itself
- racial aggravation relates to the sentence and so it would allow
that to be reflected in the seriousness of the sentence given
by the court, which could not have happened beforehand. That seems
to be the difference, but there still remains the ability for
extremists to be able to phrase propaganda in such a way as to
make it against the Islamic faith, rather than against a racial
group. We feel that there are extremists doing that, who are very
much aware of the law and understand the law very well. They are
very well advised by their legal experts and just stay within
that side of the law. Certainly, when they phrase it towards Muslims,
and the Muslim faith, then they can escape in legislation that
covers just racial incitement.
138. That is really our fourth question. Are
there occasions when people who wish to stir up hatred of one
sort of another dress it up as being religious in order to avoid
being prosecuted or being arrested for a racially aggravated offence,
leaving out the question of sentence for the moment? The issue
of sentence only comes in because there is a comparatively small
maximum for some of the lesser offences. The others can be treated
by the judges in accordance with the facts, and the evidence that
you produce of police behaviour. Can you give us more fact about
(Mr Fahy) We believe we have examples of literature
that is being produced and publicised on websites and being distributed,
which has been designed to avoid the law on racial discrimination
and racial incitement by directing it purely at the Muslim faith
and Muslim groups. As I say, we have examples of that. We believe
that it is put together in such a way to specifically stay just
outside the law. We have had many instances that we have referred
to the Crown Prosecution Service and to the Attorney General.
Our general experience is that these groups are well advised and
know just how to stay on what they term as the right side of the
law. We have particularly noticed since September 11 that antipathy
and hostility is directed against the Muslim faith because it
is known that it is not covered by the existing legislation of
139. I do not want to get involved in anything
that is likely to go before the courts, but have you got any examples
of this sort of thing that we can see?
(Mr Tucker) Chairman, I have brought a selection of
some things that are older than the legislation, but they do indicate
that extremist organisations were prepared to avoid the race issue
and use the faith issue to put forward their view. Some are quite
professionally produced. The others are less so. This one
is a sticker that was appearing .