A police investigation has been launched over conservative commentator Darren Grimes’ online interview with historian David Starkey.
In a statement, Metropolitan Police confirmed that “on 4 July, the Metropolitan Police Service was passed an allegation from Durham Police of a public order offence relating to a social media video posted online on 30 June.
“The matter is currently being investigated.”
No arrests have been made, the force added.
In the interview which was published on YouTube, Dr Starkey, 75, said: “Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there?
“An awful lot of them survived and again there’s no point in arguing against globalisation or Western civilisation. They are all products of it, we are all products of it.”
In the wake of significant backlash from the interview, Dr Starkey resigned his honorary fellowship at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, while Canterbury Christ Church University terminated his role as visiting professor, calling his comments “completely unacceptable”.
Dr Starkey issued a lengthy apology on July 6, in which he said his “principal regret” was that his “blundering use of language” could endanger people’s right to freedom of speech.
Speaking about his use of the phrase “so many damn blacks”, he said: “It was intended to emphasise, in hindsight with awful clumsiness, the numbers who survived the horrors of the slave trade.
“Instead, it came across as a term of racial abuse.
“This, in the present atmosphere, where passions are high and feelings raw, was deplorably inflammatory.
“It was a bad mistake. I am very sorry for it and I apologise unreservedly for the offence it caused.”
Darren Grimes said he was contacted earlier this week by the Metropolitan Police and told that if he didn’t attend a voluntary interview with them, he would be arrested as he was being “accused of stirring up racial hatred.”
In a statement to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Grimes said the police investigation had “serious repercussions for freedom of expression”.
He told the paper: “At a time when many in our country are facing uncertainty and financial hardship, I cannot imagine a more contemptible way for the Metropolitan Police to abuse taxpayers’ money and the trust of citizens (than) by investigating this vexatious claim.”
Yesterday, Grimes took to YouTube to share another YouTube video on how the Metropolitan Police have now “threatened an unprecedented use of Public Order legislation to target him.” The video has already received over 12,500 views.
In the video Grimes says: “Where does setting this precedent get us if journalists and broadcasters are arrested if the people they are interviewing say things that could be classed likely to stir up hatred?
“In a free and democratic society journalists and broadcasters have to be permitted to interview a wide range of people including those likely to make controversial marks.”
Several political pundits and journalists have jumped to Darren Grimes defence on social media.
Author Douglas Murray tweeted: “This is not the behaviour of a police force in a free society. Hauling someone into a police station for something someone said to them in an interview? Shame on the @metpoliceuk. Solidarity with @darrengrimes_“
Spectator journalist Kate Andrews tweeted: “By pursuing my friend @darrengrimes_ the @metpoliceuk are making a mockery of hate crime legislation; insulting victims of theft, abuse & rape who are denied police resources; casting doubt over our rights to free speech & a free press. Unjust in every way.”
The Free Speech Union stated on their Twitter account: “We are supporting our member @darrengrimes_ who is being investigated by @metpoliceuk for something somebody else said in his interview. This is a completely absurd situation and sets a dangerous precedent for journalists and commentators.”
Journalist Martin Daubney tweeted: “Utterly absurd state of affairs Police streets, not tweets Police crimes, not Grimes.”
The Metropolitan Police have been approached for comment.