An independent inquiry into the recent disorder in Leicester has been halted after questions were raised over the integrity of an academic appointed to lead the exercise.
Hate crime expert and University of Leicester assistant professor Chris Allen stepped down as the head of the review team a week after his appointment, according to a LeicestershireLive report.
Uncertainties have now gripped the inquiry, with the city’s mayor Sir Peter Soulsby indicating it needs time “to reflect on the best way to proceed”.
He, however, committed to having a review of the circumstances that led to the violence in the city, historically known for racial and cultural diversity.
Dozens of people were arrested in September over violent confrontations between Hindu and Muslim groups, escalated in part by fake news on social media. The situation prompted the local police to step up visible patrolling. But peace was finally restored and Navratri and Diwali were celebrated peacefully in the city.
However, the review commissioned by the mayor was mired in controversy as several Hindu community leaders doubted Allen’s impartiality saying his denial of the influence of Islamist extremism on the unrest pointed to his prejudice.
While Allen said he was keen on taking everyone on board, the mayor defended the academic saying his credentials were “impeccable” and some of the allegations against him were not true.
“I announced the appointment and a Twitter storm broke loose,” Sir Soulsby said, referring to the criticism surrounding the head of the review team.
“And amongst the things that were said about Chris Allen were things that were just grossly untrue,” the mayor said, adding the assistant professor could have felt “it was just not possible” to lead the exercise.
A “very disappointed” Sir Soulsby said, “I think (Allen) just decided it was crazy to go on with that sort of stuff being piled on him.”
As there has been a demand for the Home Office to step into the matter, the mayor said he was considering options around the review.
“If the Home Office or another government department would like to take responsibility for a review, I’d be happy to discuss it with them,” Sir Soulsby said.
The Home Office did not divulge anything specific about the issue, with its spokesperson merely saying it was committed to making “our streets and communities safer.”