The Crown Prosecution Service is to review allegations that Nigel Farage incited racial and religious hatred during the EU referendum campaign.
The move comes after 42,691 people signed an online change.org petition calling for the former Ukip leader to be prosecuted. It also follows an outpouring of so-called post-referendum racism which saw hate incidents reported to the police rise by 57 per cent in the four days following the June 23 vote.
Nigel Farage, however, told The Independent that he “rejected utterly” any suggestion that he or any campaign with which he had been involved had incited any sort of hatred. Speaking of those who had asked for him to be prosecuted, he said: “I suggest they all get a life and recognise that this referendum is over.
“The war is over.
“So let’s get on with building a happy, peaceable multi-racial society.”
The petition cited the ‘Breaking Point’ poster unveiled by Mr Farage which depicted mainly non-white refugees crossing a border in central Europe, thousands of miles from the UK.
The petition, handed in to a north London police station in July, stated: “The law states that it is incitement to racial hatred when a person ‘intends to stir up racial hatred, or makes it likely that racial hatred will be stirred up. This can include such things as making a speech, displaying a racist poster.’
“The law states that it is incitement to religious hatred when a person uses: ‘words or behaviour that is intended to stir up religious hatred.’"
Petition organiser Zack Newman, 36, who - like Mr Farage in his former career - works as a commodities broker, albeit as a comprehensively educated one rather than an alumnus of the fee-paying Dulwich College, told The Independent: “If mainstream politicians are allowed to get away with deliberately stoking up fear and hatred of minority groups to generate votes we are in trouble.
“Unless a strong signal is sent now we will only see more of this type of campaigning in the next election. This must never be allowed to happen again.”
Mr Newman revealed that after the call for a prosecution was passed to Westminster Police, officers initially rejected it, with the investigating detective saying that the Breaking Point poster “cannot sensibly be interpreted as incitement or any other offence.”
Mr Newman then investigated further and presented the police with “much more inflammatory posters, videos and data linking the campaigning to actual hate crimes.”
After Mr Newman emailed the detective and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, saying he and the others petitioners wanted to refer the lack of an investigation to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, he received a further reply from the police.
The investigating officer in Westminster has now told him: “Whilst I maintain my view [against prosecution], and have senior management support for same, my management have asked that CPS review the decision.”
A Scotland Yard spokesman explained to The Independent: “On July 20 police received information, including a petition, alleging an individual had incited racial hatred during the EU referendum campaign.
“Officers from Westminster continue to assess the information and have sought legal advice as part of this process. This work remains ongoing.”
Characterising the CPS review as an investigation to see whether there should be a police investigation, Mr Newman said: “This is a step forward. I was quite happy to get that email.
“I still think there should be a prosecution. The Government and the CPS need to take this seriously. And if the CPS aren’t able to convict him [Farage] then the law needs to be changed.
“Demonising Muslims and Eastern Europeans simply isn’t legitimate politics.”
In an outspoken rebuttal of all the claims against him, Mr Farage told The Independent: “Of course, I am blamed for everything. But religion was barely mentioned in the whole referendum campaign, so that one’s out of the window before you even start.
“I don’t recall race being mentioned once, because we were basically talking about white people from Southern and Eastern Europe.”
Mr Farage, who during the referendum campaign tended to operate independently of Vote Leave, the official Brexit grouping, added: “I would suggest the police and CPS deal with the truth. The Breaking Point poster was a factual picture, not doctored in any way, of mass movements of people within the European Union in response to Mrs [Angela] Merkel making the biggest policy error of any Western politician for 70 years.”
Repeating that he had not incited hatred, he said: “Certainly not, but we did point out, as that poster did, that the EU has failed us all.”