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Police watchdog urged to substantiate ‘Shariah law is rife’ in Midlands claim

Police watchdog urged to substantiate ‘Shariah law is rife’ in Midlands claim

🕔03.Feb 2014

Police watchdog Tom Winsor is under renewed pressure to explain his claim that ethnic minority communities are failing to report serious crimes, preferring instead to operate their own forms of justice.

Mr Winsor, who is Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC), highlighted “cities in the Midlands where police never go because they are never called” in a controversial newspaper article.

Pressed to justify his comments, Mr Winsor said he was referring to “people born under foreign skies” and went on to claim that offences such as honour killings and female genital mutilation were routinely not reported to police because communities wanted to deal with such matters themselves.

His comments, which were taken to infer that Shariah law is widespread in cities like Birmingham, infuriated police chiefs who strongly denied the claims.

Mr Winsor has reportedly said he was not referring to the West Midlands when he made his allegations, but has so far not identified the Midland cities he was referring to in the article.

Now Mr Winsor has been challenged to justify his comments by Birmingham city councillor Waseem Zaffar, who chairs the social cohesion and community safety scrutiny committee.

Cllr Zaffar (Lab Lozells & East Handsworth) has written to Mr Winsor warning him that he risks damaging improved community relations in Birmingham by making unsubstantiated claims about ethnic minority groups taking the law into their own hands.

In his letter Cllr Zaffar said: “I have not seen any evidence to support the idea that particular communities are taking it upon themselves to deal with crimes. I do not understand or recognise your phrase ‘born under foreign skies’, given that a large majority of people who live here were born here.

“I am concerned that your comments are unsubstantiated at this point in time and potentially damaging to the good work that police officers throughout the country are doing, particularly in building trust amongst diverse communities. I would therefore urge you to present the evidence on which your claims were based.”

Mr Winsor has also been asked to explain himself by House of Commons Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz, who wants the HMIC to give evidence to MPs.

A recent meeting of the committee saw West Midlands Police Commissioner Bob Jones and Chief Constable Chris Sims strongly reject Mr Winsor’s claims.

Mr Sims said: “I certainly did not recognise at all the picture that was painted in the article. Certainly the quote, ‘there are cities in the Midlands where the police never go because they are never called’, is totally at odds with my experience, where the inner-city areas that are our most diverse are the areas that generate the most activity for us, understandably, and are the areas that we are putting so much effort into engagement and getting some good traction from local communities.

“None of that made sense to me in terms of my experience. HMIC rang me yesterday and did make clear to me that he was not referring to the West Midlands in the comments he made. He was not able to say where he was referring to, but it certainly was not the West Midlands.”

Mr Jones told the committee: “As someone who was born and who continues to live and work in such an area, I did not recognise the HMIC’s description of the area that I live in and the area that I represent.

“Clearly, in the areas that he is referring to, we have higher levels of reporting and higher levels of police activity than other areas of the West Midlands and the wider country.”

Cover Image: Soynadie

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