CPS tells George Galloway he faces no charges over ‘Israel-free zone’ speech

George Galloway

George Galloway will not face charges over a speech he made in August declaring Bradford an “Israel-free zone”.

The Respect MP for Bradford West was interviewed by police under caution over claims that his statements in Leeds had incited racial hatred.

The Crown Prosecution Service said on Wednesday night it had decided not to charge Galloway, who labelled the allegations “an extremely expensive waste of police and CPS time”.

He added: “My comments were aimed at the state of Israel which – I repeat what I said at the time – is an illegal, savage and barbarous state, and had nothing whatever to do with race or religion.

“I take back not a word and I will continue to forcefully condemn Israel.”

Chief Supt Paul Money, Leeds district commander, said West Yorkshire police received several complaints about Galloway’s speech on 2 August and a full investigation was carried out as a result.

“A file was submitted to the CPS for advice on whether any offences had been committed and they have now concluded there is insufficient evidence to support any charges,” he said.

“West Yorkshire police have recorded this matter as a hate incident.

“A hate incident is any incident, which may or may not constitute a criminal offence, which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by prejudice or hate towards a person’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Deborah Walsh, of the CPS special crime and counter-terrorism division, said: “Given the context and setting in which the speech was made, including its overall content and the audience discussion which followed, we have determined that the speech did not indicate a desire to encourage others to hate a racial group.

“There is also insufficient evidence to show, in all the circumstances of this case, that it was likely that people would have been motivated to hate people of Israeli origin as a result.”

She said the CPS determined that the comments “were not made in a threatening manner, nor could they be considered abusive, to which case law has attached a high criminal threshold by defining as ‘extremely offensive and insulting’.

“Furthermore, case law is clear that any offending behaviour must actually have occurred within the sight or hearing of someone likely to be caused harassment, alarm and distress, and that it is insufficient that someone might or could have seen or heard the offending behaviour.”

Walsh added: “Having considered the evidence in relation to the audience at the public meeting, its reaction and the fact that Mr Galloway does not appear to have made the speech more widely available, we have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute.”

Galloway won the seat in a 2012 byelection with a 36% swing from Labour, giving Respect a majority of more than 10,000.

In the runup to the byelection, he had called for British troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan.

Galloway’s speech prompted Daniel Taub, the Israeli ambassador to Britain, to visit Bradford and tweet pictures of himself holding an Israeli flag next to a sign welcoming visitors.

The act was described as a “deliberate provocation” by Zulfi Karim, secretary of the Bradford Council for Mosques, who called on both Galloway and Taub to stop using Bradford for their own political ends.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Chris Johnston, for The Guardian on Thursday 16th October 2014 01.32 Europe/London

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