» Thursday, February 8, 2007

Community Cohesion

Asked if Ruth Kelly had discussed with Cabinet the claim that Britain was a police state for Muslims, the PMOS replied that the issue was discussed and the following points were made:

  • In a police state, a court would not have been able to release someone who was being questioned by the police.
  • In a police state, that person would not then be able to go on national airwaves and be interviewed.
  • Equally however, in a free society the police had an absolute duty and responsibility to act on information, if by doing so they believed that they were protecting society from a threat.

That was the balance that we had to achieve in a democratic society. To call a process that resulted in that sequence a "police state" was categorically wrong.

Asked if these comments did not highlight exactly the sensitivities in Muslim communities that Ruth Kelly was trying to address, the PMOS replied that what community representatives from that community had said themselves, was that they equally recognised the difficult job that the police had to do in these circumstances. What did not help were gross caricatures of the political process in this country. We did have a court system that oversaw the work of the police. For example, taking the issue of detention for 28 days, there was a weekly judicial oversight process. We had to reject these simplistic caricatures in the strongest way possible.

Asked if the Prime Minister had any concern that a lot of people initially arrested both in the Birmingham and Forest Gate cases, were later released without charge, the PMOS replied that looking at the overall way in which any police investigation was carried out, there was the same set of processes. The issue was not whether people were arrested and then released, the issue was the oversight that was in place to ensure that people were treated in the proper way.

Put to him that it was troubling to someone who had been arrested and then released, who on release discovered that their caricature had to some extent been traduced for the last week by leaks, the PMOS replied by asking the journalist where these leaks came from. People should identify where the leaks came from as they were not in any way approved by Government. On the day of the operation, both the Home Secretary and the Attorney General went on the record to say that the media should avoid unhelpful speculation. He had read that out at Lobby.

Asked that since the Government did not approve these leaks, was there to be a formal investigation into the way in which police information came out, the PMOS replied that it was for the police to regulate themselves, and it was not for him to comment on that. It was important that on this occasion, the Home Secretary and the Attorney General responded to the genuine concern that speculation could either inhibit the investigation, or lead to problems further down the road if these cases went to court. That was why they issued the statement on the day.

Asked if he was calling on journalists to reveal their sources, the PMOS replied that he had seen what he believed to be inaccurate criticism of Whitehall. But it was not for him to say.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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