David Starkey investigated by police following controversial interview comments

David Starkey
David Starkey - (Copyright PA Archive)
16:40pm, Tue 13 Oct 2020
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

Historian David Starkey has revealed he is being investigated by police following a controversial interview with Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes

Dr Starkey attracted widespread criticism after he said slavery was not genocide because there are “so many damn blacks” still around.

The comments led to Mr Grimes being investigated by the Metropolitan Police after he published the interview on his YouTube channel Reasoned UK.

In a statement on Tuesday, Dr Starkey defended Mr Grimes, calling the focus of the investigation into him “unfortunate and grossly unfair”.

I have apologised unreservedly for the words used and I do so again today. It was a serious error for which I have already paid a significant price

The 75-year-old said: “Mr Grimes is a young, aspiring journalist and his role in the affair is – at most – secondary.

“I have apologised unreservedly for the words used and I do so again today. It was a serious error for which I have already paid a significant price.

“I did not, however, intend to stir up racial hatred and there was nothing about the circumstances of the broadcast which made it likely to do so.”

Dr Starkey said the focus on Mr Grimes “raised fundamental questions” about the freedom of the press and public debate.

He added: “As I said in my original apology, my principal concern was that my blundering use of language and the penalties it has incurred would further chill public debate and freedom of expression.”

BeLeave founder begins appeal - (Copyright PA Archive)

Dr Starkey said the Met had sought to contact him by email on the same day it notified Mr Grimes about the investigation, but claimed it was sent to the Bow Group conservative think tank, of which he is vice-president.

As a result, Dr Starkey said he only received the email on Tuesday morning when it was forwarded to him.

“The effect of this delay and confusion has been to throw the focus of the police investigation wholly on Mr Grimes. This is unfortunate and grossly unfair,” he added.

Dr Starkey said he would co-operate with police, but added he will “defend myself robustly against any allegation of criminal wrongdoing”.

In the original interview with Mr Grimes, which was published online, Dr Starkey said: “Slavery was not genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain, would there?

“An awful lot of them survived and again there’s no point in arguing against globalisation or Western civilisation. They are all products of it, we are all products of it.

“The honest teaching of the British Empire is to say, quite simply, it is the first key stage of our globalisation.

“It is probably the most important moment in human history and it is still with us.”

After it emerged Mr Grimes was being investigated, Scotland Yard said in a statement on Saturday: “On July 4, the Metropolitan Police Service was passed an allegation from Durham Police of a public order offence relating to a social media video posted on June 30.

“The matter was reviewed by officers and on July 29 a file was submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service for early investigative advice.

“On September 25 early investigative advice was received and officers began an investigation.

“This will remain under review. No arrests have been made.”

In a statement to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Grimes said the police investigation had “serious repercussions for freedom of expression”.

Meanwhile, Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, which aims to protect media freedom, said the organisation was “deeply concerned by the threat such an investigation poses to free speech and the chilling effect it could have on the media’s ability to interview controversial figures”.

The Met has been contacted for comment.

Sign up to our newsletter