Priti Patel hits out over police probe into David Starkey interviewer

Priti Patel hits out over police race-hatred probe into David Starkey interviewer: Home Secretary throws support behind pro-Brexit campaigner on whose YouTube channel historian made ‘damn blacks’ comments

  • Priti Patel has thrown her support behind pro-Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes
  • The 27-year-old commentator is under investigation for stirring up racial hatred
  • He is facing police probe over ‘damn blacks’ comments made by David Starkey
  • Supporters said Grimes should not be help accountable for Dr Starkey’s remarks 

Priti Patel on Saturday night threw her support behind a pro-Brexit campaigner facing a police probe over ‘damn blacks’ comments made by historian David Starkey.

There was fury from MPs and free-speech campaigners yesterday after Darren Grimes revealed he was being investigated for stirring up racial hatred over his online interview with Dr Starkey.

Supporters urged police to drop the case and said the 27-year-old commentator should not be held accountable for Dr Starkey’s remarks that ‘slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there?’

In an extraordinary intervention, the Home Secretary tweeted: ‘Decisions of the police to investigate particular cases are clearly an operational matter for them which I can’t comment on, but as a general principle, it’s important the law protects freedom of speech.’

Priti Patel (above) threw her support behind Darren Grimes, who is being investigated by police for stirring up racial hatred over his interview with historian David Starkey

Sources told Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges that the alarming case was ‘the final straw for the Government’ amid fears of creeping ‘police activism’. 

One Minister said: ‘This is an obvious attempt at a political prosecution. It’s so damaging to the reputation of the police. They’ve been saying for years they can’t investigate burglaries and other crimes because of cuts, but they have time for this.’

Mr Grimes said the allegations were a Left-wing ‘vendetta’ as it emerged the Crown Prosecution Service had sanctioned the police probe. 

Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: ‘The idea that it’s appropriate to go after journalists for the remarks of their interviewees is plainly absurd.’

Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: ‘Grimes is not responsible for Starkey’s appalling comments. In a free society, we surely don’t do things like this?’ 

Tory MP Matt Vickers described the decision as ‘a bloody waste of police time and taxpayers’ money’. 

Another Tory MP, Ben Bradley, said: ‘Darren’s ‘crime’ according to accusers is not predicting that his interviewee would say something offensive’.

Dr Starkey’s controversial comments on Mr Grimes’s Reasoned UK YouTube channel on June 30 – at the peak of the Black Lives Matter protests – provoked fury. 

Supporters have said the 27-year-old commentator should not be held accountable for Dr Starkey’s remarks that ‘slavery was not genocide’ during the interview

The historian resigned from his fellowship at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, and had two book deals axed by HarperCollins. 

Dr Starkey, who was not returning calls yesterday, has said his remark was a ‘bad mistake’, adding: ‘I am very sorry for it and I apologise unreservedly.’ Mr Grimes issued an apology in July, saying he should have ‘robustly questioned’ his interviewee about the comments.

Police launched a probe into Dr Starkey on July 4, but Mr Grimes has now discovered that he too is under investigation. He has been asked to attend a police interview under caution to respond to accusations of stirring up racial hatred. 

The crime carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

Last night, a police spokesman said: ‘On July 4, the Metropolitan Police was passed an allegation from Durham Police of a public order offence relating to a social media video posted online on June 30. The matter is being investigated. No arrests have been made.’

‘I felt such dread. It’s an awful thing to be accused of’: Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes says he’s a victim of Left-wing ‘vendetta’ as he faces police probe over ‘damn blacks’ phrase David Starkey used on the political pundit’s YouTube channel

By Michael Powell 

Darren Grimes said on Saturday night he was the victim of a Left-wing ‘vendetta’ and that the police case against him would have a ‘chilling effect’ on free speech.

The Brexit campaigner and political pundit told The Mail on Sunday that detectives were pursuing ‘vexatious complaints’ by political rivals trying to shut down his YouTube channel.

He said: ‘The whole thing is insane. You can’t hold journalists and broadcasters accountable for something their interviewee or guests say.’

Grimes, 27, is under investigation for inciting racial hatred after he published a video interview with David Starkey in June, during which the historian said slavery was not genocide because ‘there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there?’ 

Darren Grimes (above) told The Mail on Sunday that detectives were pursuing ‘vexatious complaints’ by political rivals trying to shut down his YouTube channel

The incendiary comments caused fury, with Dr Starkey resigning from his fellowship at Cambridge University. He also lost two book deals.

Mr Grimes apologised for not robustly challenging Dr Starkey at the time and thought that was the end of the matter.

So when an email arrived from a detective constable requesting that he come in for an interview at a police station, Mr Grimes’s first thought was that he was the victim of a practical joke. 

He said: ‘I went to my nearest police station in London and spoke to the officer behind the desk. I said, “I think I’m being pranked” and showed her the email. She asked my name and then she looked up and asked, “Are you a broadcaster?” She said it was all real. I just couldn’t believe it.’

Mr Grimes emailed the officer back asking what he was being accused of, and was informed his video had breached Section 22 of the Public Order Act 1986. 

The officer explained the law covers programmes which ‘stir up racial hatred’. 

The detective wrote: ‘It is believed that your interview with Mr Starkey has met the threshold for this offence.’ 

Mr Grimes said: ‘I just felt this enormous sense of dread. It’s such a horrible thing to be accused of. My first reaction was thinking about the headlines “Grimes incites racial hatred” and my poor mother 300 miles away in County Durham having to read it.’

Mr Grimes had apologised for not robustly challenging historian David Starkey (above) at the time and thought that was the end of the matter

The case comes five months after the Met Police dropped an investigation into allegations that Mr Grimes had broken electoral laws during the EU referendum campaign. 

The official Vote Leave campaign funnelled £675,000 via Mr Grimes’s BeLeave pro-Brexit youth group in the days before the referendum in 2016, which helped ensure it did not breach the £7 million spending limit. 

Police spent almost two years investigating the case before dropping it in May.

Mr Grimes said: ‘It does seem like there is a crosshair on my head and someone has a vendetta. This could be hanging over me for months or even years.’

He was sure the complaint was politically motivated, adding: ‘It is because it is Darren Grimes and David Starkey – two Right-wing b*******. They think they can kill two birds with one stone.’

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