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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 April 2005, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Force apology over racist remarks
Sheraz Arshad
Sheraz Arshad says he is 'very grateful' for the apology
A police force has apologised to two Muslim men after officers failed to take action when they were racially abused at a meeting held in the Council Chamber at Ribble Valley Council.

Officers stood watching as members of the public abused the men during an appeal hearing in 2003 following the refusal of planning permission to build a mosque in Clitheroe, Lancashire.

The government appointed Planning Inspector upheld the Council's decision at the hearing.

Lancashire Police will pay 5,000 to the town's Medina Islamic Education Centre, which the men represented.

'Improve relations'

Ch Supt David Mallaby issued an unreserved apology to the men - Farouk Hussain and Sheraz Arshad - who are chairman and secretary respectively of the centre.

We did feel that we couldn't rest until we did get this apology
Sheraz Arshad

He said the force's actions were "unacceptable", adding: "The police officers who were present at the meeting when racist comments were made by some members of the audience should have acted at the time but didn't.

"However, this was due to them, in the main, not being properly briefed prior to the meeting and I take responsibility for that.

"We are hopeful that we can continue to build on what was, and remains, an excellent relationship with the Muslim community of Clitheroe."

It is believed officers were briefed not to intervene in the meeting unless addressed by the chairman.

Mr Arshad said: "It just sent out a very wrong message that it's OK to abuse people and not be taken to account by the police. Because of that and the damage it had done to relations in the community, we did feel that we couldn't rest until we did get this apology.

"We are very grateful to the constabulary for taking this step and being big enough to admit they were wrong.

"We are hopeful now to improve relations in the town. This is the first step and there is a lot of work which needs to be done."


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