Lord MacDonald QC, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, has revealed that he believes not only that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has had sufficient time to review the cases of the arrested Labour members and should announce its conclusions, but that the evidence suggests that crimes have indeed been committed.
Lord MacDonald, who headed the CPS from 2003 to 2008, made the intervention after the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, revealed that six arrests were made in connection with a secret dossier compiled by the Labour Party and subsequently leaked and referred to the Met by Campaign Against Antisemitism and the radio channel LBC, and that five of the cases were passed to the CPS in September 2019.
Commissioner Dick explained that the cases represented a “complex crime type” and that the CPS would have to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring charges and a public interest in prosecuting.
But Lord MacDonald opined that “these are allegations about the conduct of members of a major political party and so there is obviously a strong public interest in this being resolved, and resolved as quickly as possible.” Moreover, he noted that a long delay fuels “rumours” and “unease” and therefore that “safe conclusions are needed sooner rather than later.”
Lord MacDonald went on to say that “the sensitivity in these cases is that prosecutors have to balance two things: one is the suggestion that these messages, these posts may comprise incitement to racial hatred, or other hate crimes, on the one hand, and then on the other hand, free expression rights,” adding that this “can sometimes be a tricky analysis but I should have thought that three months is plenty of time to come to conclusions in this case.”
He observed that “there is some very extreme material here. There are posts suggesting that a named Jewish Labour politician should be given a ‘good kicking’,” as well as “posts suggesting that Jews should be exterminated. There’s talk about gas chambers, although it is said we shouldn’t use gas chambers in the UK because we need our own gas for our own purposes.”
He concluded: “This is very extreme stuff, which I’d have thought is well capable of comprising a criminal offence. Speech has to be pretty extreme to amount to incitement to racial or religious hatred but some of this speech does look to be very extreme indeed.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism has taken a close interest in these cases since it referred them to the Met live on air in September 2018. Lord MacDonald is right that the CPS has had sufficient time to reach safe conclusions. There must be zero tolerance of antisemitism not only on our streets but also in political parties.
On 28th May 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a full statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant.