West Midlands Police and CPS apologise to programme makers
The makers of Channel 4’s Dispatches investigation Undercover Mosque have won a public apology and six-figure libel settlement from West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service after false accusations of TV fakery.
The settlement followed the issue of libel proceedings by the programme makers in response to a public statements made by West Midlands Police and the CPS about the investigative documentary, broadcast in January 2007, which exposed extremism in a number of British Mosques.
In August last year, WMP and the CPS issued a joint press release falsely claiming the programme had completely distorted the views of Muslim preachers and clerics featured in the programme by misleading editing. The press release received widespread media coverage suggesting that the programme had deceived viewers. WMP and CPS also referred the programme to Ofcom, but the broadcasting regulator rejected their complaints and found “each and every quote was justified by the narrative of the programme and put fully in context”.
At the High Court this morning the Police and prosecutors apologised unreservedly for the comments which they have accepted were incorrect and unjustified. Their solicitor told Mr Justice Eady that they “were wrong to make these allegations… and now accept that there was no evidence that the broadcaster or programme makers had misled the audience or that the programme was likely to encourage or incite criminal activity”.
As well as paying their legal costs, West Midlands Police and the CPS have also agreed to pay substantial damages to the programme makers which they are donating to the Rory Peck Trust.
Kevin Sutcliffe, Deputy Head of Current Affairs at Channel 4 who oversees Dispatches, said, “This is a total vindication of the programme team in exposing extreme views being preached in mainstream British mosques. The authorities should be doing all they can to encourage investigations like this, not attempting to publicly rubbish them for reasons they have never properly explained.”
David Henshaw, Executive Producer and Managing Director of Hardcash Productions, who produced the documentary added, “This was a thorough and detailed one-hour documentary, made over nine months and at personal risk to the undercover reporter. The abhorrent and extreme comments made by fundamentalist preachers in the film speak for themselves.”
Julian Bellamy, Head of Channel 4, said, “As Channel 4’s flagship current affairs programme, Dispatches has an outstanding reputation for brave and incisive journalism. It was clearly vital to us that an important piece of journalism and the reputation of its makers was not undermined by these unjustified allegations remaining unchallenged. Journalism of this kind has always been, and will continue to be, central to Channel 4’s purpose.”