Met chief demands end to politically correct inquiries

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The Independent Online

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has moved to end "pointless and costly" investigations into commentators who voice politically incorrect opinions on radio and television.

Sir Ian launched a review of how his force responded to complaints about allegedly homophobic and racist statements broadcast on radio and television.

Under current rules, police are duty bound to investigate any complaints from viewers and listeners but officers are understood to be exasperated that they have to look into all of them as potential "hate" crimes.

Inquiries can tie up resources and cost thousands of pounds before establishing people are only exercising their right to freedom of speech and have not committed offences under either the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act or the Public Order Act.

The announcement of the review comes days after the Met began investigating Sir Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, over a BBC Radio 4 interview in which he voiced his view that homosexuality was "not acceptable".

A listener made a formal complaint to police suggesting his comments were homophobic. However, the Met made clear the investigation into Sir Iqbal's comments would continue and would not be affected by the review.

In another case last month, the family campaigner Lynette Burrows was spoken to by officers after she aired her opinion that homosexuals should not be allowed to adopt children - in a programme on Radio Five Live. A listener called police.

Sir Ian has faced criticism for his own perceived adherence to political correctness but appears keen to end frivolous investigations. His review raises the prospect of an increasing role for police in deciding what constitutes free speech.