Sir Keir Starmer has refused to criticise the criminal investigation into interviewer Darren Grimes, saying that "there is a line that can be crossed".
When asked whether the police should be investigating the conservative commentator for a remark Dr David Starkey made during an interview, the former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said that when the line was crossed there should be “involvement” and “in some cases prosecutions”
He made the comments just hours after one of his predecessors as DPP, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, said that the investigation looked like a “political stunt” which was “sinister and foolish”.
The comments put Mr Starmer at odds with figures from across the political divide who have warned of the impact that the investigation could have on freedom of speech, which Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was "important" that the law protects.
Mr Grimes is due to attend an interview under caution with the Metropolitan Police on Friday.
The 27-year-old is accused of a public order offence of stirring up racial hatred by broadcasting the interview on his Reasoned UK YouTube channel on June 30.
Dr Starkey, who has since lost all of his positions in public life, said that slavery was not a genocide as there are so many “damn blacks”.
When asked on LBC if the police should be investigating, the Labour leader said: “I think it does sometimes have to involve the police unfortunately. When I DPP there was a lot of focus on whether what people say on social media should be policed or not.
“There has got to be a level of tolerance of course, but there is a line that can be crossed and it is very important that when it is crossed that there is involvement, in some cases prosecutions."
When asked whether journalists had the right to ask questions he said that “there has to be tolerance of free speech” but added “there is a line and when people go over the line it’s right that it’s investigated”.
Mr Grimes said: “Make no mistake. This is the Leader of the Opposition supporting the arrest of a journalist for something his guest has said. Absolutely extraordinary, with terrifying repercussions for freedom of the press.”
When asked about the impact that the investigation was having, the Brexit campaigner said: “My concern isn’t really about me. I am big and ugly enough to fight these vexatious claims and be able to fight them, but my concern is about the impact on smaller podcasters of those seeking to do interviews that don’t have a public platform like I do.”
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