11 OCTOBER 2003, Page 24

Let's not get into a paddy

Nobody likes a bigot, says Rod Liddle, but the Met would do us all a favour if it stopped trying to nab hate criminals and instead pursued thieves and murderers imi hey're trying to lock up the columnist Julie Burchill again for inciting racial hatred. Her prosecutor is a man called John Twomey from the London Irish Centre, who took offence at Julie's objections to the level of public funding for the forthcoming St Patrick's Day parade in the capital.

Twomey tried to have her banged up a year ago, after Julie was uncomplimentary about the Irish flag. Or, as she put it, 'the Hitler-licking, altar-boy-molesting, abortion-banning Irish tricolour'. Twomey complained to the Metropolitan Police's 'Diversity Directorate'. Astonishingly, you might think, the Diversity Directorate forwarded a file to the Crown Prosecution Service, which, after a minimum of deliberation, told them to get lost. Now Twomey's at it again, despite the fact that in her article Julie didn't mention the Irish at all — she simply suggested, towards the end of the piece, that St Patrick's Day might be less deserving of public money than some other charitable causes. She didn't even go into why St Patrick's Day was less deserving. (I can do that if you like, Mr Twomey — at some length, if you want the reasons.) I suppose if it were just one renegade, embittered paddy (a term I use affectionate ly) hounding the excellent Ms Burchill none of this would matter too much. But Mr Twomey was offered considerable succour and sympathy last time around by the police, and there's no reason to suspect that the same thing won't happen on this occasion. One day we may find out how much public money has been spent attempting to lock up Julie Burchill as opposed to, say, solving the sorts of things you and I would consider to be crimes. Right now, though, they don't have the figures and the business is, as they say, ongoing.

Julie's not alone in facing this intimidation. Last year the police questioned Greg Dyke, the director-general of the BBC, after Anne Robinson admitted, on television, that she did not see the point of the Welsh. In the end the BBC and the presenter of The Weakest Link escaped prosecution.

The television and restaurant critic A.A. Gill went a shade further than Ms Robinson, referring to the inhabitants of that damp, mountainous, Celtic utopia as, 'immoral liars, stunted, bigoted. . pugnacious little trolls'. So they had a go at him, too. But again, there was no prosecution.

Nor, of course, has this magazine been immune to the inquiries of the Metropolitan Police. You will remember the case of Taki Theodoracopulos earlier this year. No stranger to allegations of racism, Taki sailed into print with a broadside against a somewhat ill-defined, undifferentiated tranche of the population, black people. West Indians breed like flies, he asserted. And he added for good measure that 'Britain is being mugged by black hoodlums'. Well, he's wrong, metaphorically and literally, on the first point: West Indians do not breed like flies. They breed with rather less fecundity than, say, Greek people, as it happens. And he's mostly wrong on the second count, too: at any rate most crime in Britain is committed by white people, not by black people. So his piece was inaccurate and, you might argue — as I would — pretty foul. But did it demand the attentions of the Metropolitan Police and the threat of prosecution? You

know, the thought keeps occurring usually while we're all being burgled or car-jacked or robbed at knife-point or defrauded: don't these bobbies have better things to do? And wouldn't it be more rewarding for the police, on both a personal and an institutional level, if they investigated things that were actually, you know, urn. . . against the law? That is to say, things from which they might stand a half-chance of securing not merely a prosecution but a conviction too?

But the thing is, we are in the topsyturvy world of New Scotland Yard's Diversity Directorate and its commander, who until last month was a woman abiding under the name of Cressida Dick. Commander Dick pledged to remove from the world that terrible thing, `hate', wherever it raised its head. I feel sure that, given a chance, she would have 'hate' replaced, wherever it was manifest, by — which is a noble aspiration, I am sure, but perhaps better suited to someone like the late Princess Diana, or maybe Yoko Ono, than the British police.

Anyway, the Diversity Directorate (now commanded by Steve Allen) has 165 officers at its disposal based in New Scotland Yard. They co-ordinate and 'reinvestigate' the activities of the newly formed 'Community Safety Units' whose job it is to watch out for hatred across the London boroughs. There are at least 500 officers dedicated to this particular job. So that's a personnel force of 665 people in London alone. In the last year for which figures are available they investigated, for example, 15,453 incidents of race hate. The 'clear-up' rate — which means the number of incidents that either went to court, regardless of a not-guilty verdict, or were dropped by the complainants — was 3,192. So more than 12,000 didn't even get to court, The Diversity Directorate has a number of `core objectives', as I dare say you might imagine it has: 'To improve the prevention and investigation of racial and violent crime by setting minimum qualitative standards and creating a review process.' That's the top one. The directorate also insists, in prose that emanates from some dark distant place way beyond parody, that it will 'develop antihate-crime partnerships' across this great country of ours. Check out its website and you will be rewarded with a tirade of hatred about hate, together with uplifting anti-hate messages from such social luminaries as the American actor Bill Cosby. Commander Dick has weighed in, too, with a few choice epithets of her own, such as: 'People should not have to go through life being subject to abuse because of what they are or what they believe in.' Unless, of course, they are racists. Then they should be subject not just to abuse, but dawn raids and unsuccessful prosecution by Commander Dick or her successor, Commander Allen. And what about people who believe in a wide variety of other horrible things, such as female circumcision or cannibalism or paedophilia or group sex with animals? Are we really debarred from abusing these people? That's an enormous amount of fun removed from my life in one fell swoop. Commander Dick's statement, when you think about it. is platitudinous nonsense. But it is a nonsense on which an entire enormous police unit has been based.

Another co-opted copper contributed this rather illuminating insight to the website: 'Hate-crime is an iceberg which is 90 per cent invisible.' And that, I reckon, is the whole problem. We have a police unit devoted to countering a 'crime' which nobody knows is there. And 90 per cent of hate-crime isn't merely invisible — i.e., it has absolutely no tangible effect on anybody anywhere — it isn't actually a crime, as we would normally perceive it. It is a state of mind or, if we're being metaphysical, a psychological state and therefore not the sort of thing one can legislate against successfully. Do you, reader, have hate in your heart? What sort of hate is it? There are some bits of hate the police don't mind you having but others about which they're apt, these days, to get very cross indeed.

In November last year, the Diversity Directorate took a quick break from attempting, unsuccessfully, to prosecute journalists for things that weren't actually racist and raided a whole bunch of homes belonging to, or rented by, the unloved, under-educated, impoverished white Untennenschen. A total of 150 homes were visited in a massive and high-profile operation which even the liberal press feared had the whiff of a publicity stunt about it. Victims of the raid were targeted for their supposed crimes of a racist, homophobic or domestic-violence nature. (I don't know how domestic violence suddenly got included in this particular category of crime, but there we are. Last year it accounted for most of the work of this unit.) Anyway, somewhere in the region of 100 people were arrested, And I suspect that it will come as little surprise to you to discover that, having been arrested, only 27 of them were subsequently charged (mainly for unspecified racehate crimes). Scotland Yard does not have the figures as to how many of those prosecutions resulted in a conviction. Could it possibly be none whatsoever? Or is that unduly cynical of me? Scotland Yard can't even tell me how many police officers took part in the raids.

Of course, the whole thing has been cooked up as a response to the murder of the black youngster Stephen Lawrence and the perception that the police were, or are, institutionally racist. So we now have the daft — and unique — policy that a racist hate-crime has taken place if the supposed victim deems it to be, rather than the police themselves deeming it to be, And we have Commander Allen in charge of his strange, abstruse unit which busies itself by developing anti-hate-crime partnerships and launching a myriad of unsuccessful prosecutions against those whom other people, no matter how deranged or agenda-driven, believe to have spoken with hate on their minds.

The Diversity Directorate hasn't got around to dealing with Julie Burchill's latest supposed transgression just yet. But I dare say it will — because Mr Twomey has defined her journalism as racist and therefore we all have to accept that it is indeed racist unless otherwise proven. Which, of course, it will be, because it isn't, The Crown Prosecution Service will bin the papers as soon as they land on the doormat.

Meanwhile, if you've had your mobile phone pinched in the street or your house burgled, don't expect a parade of boys in blue to arrive at your front door. Instead rest assured that there are 665 coppers out there in London somewhere searching for the invisible, the indefinable and the unprosecutable.

Rod Liddle is associate editor of The Spectator.