A racial hatred charge has been dropped against a Croydon man who posted a controversial tweet in the wake of the Brussels terror attacks. Matthew Doyle tweeted about a confrontation with a Muslim woman who he randomly stopped on the streets on 22 March, asking her to "explain Brussels".
A message on his Twitter profile read: "I confronted a Muslim women (sic) yesterday in Croydon. I asked her to explain Brussels. She said 'nothing to do with me'. A mealy mouthed reply."
Following an investigation by the Croydon Police Community Safety Unit, the 46-year-old was been arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred and charged in the early hours of Friday morning. But hours later, Scotland Yard announced Mr Doyle will face no further action - and his scheduled appearance at Camberwell Green Magistrates Court on Saturday was cancelled.
A police spokesman said: "Following discussion with the Crown Prosecution Service, Mr Doyle is no longer charged with the offence and will not be appearing in court. "Police may not make charging decisions on offences under Section 19 of the Public Order Act. There will be further consultation with the CPS."
An LSE alumnus, Mr Doyle faced a public backlash over the tweet, which was posted shortly after suicide bombings at an airport and on the metro system in the Belgian capital killed 31 people, injuring many hundreds more.
He was mocked widely on social media. "I confronted my 5 yr old son yesterday. I asked him to explain the mortgage rates. He said 'I dunno, I like Batman'. A mealy mouthed reply," wrote one Twitter user.
Another Twitter user wrote: "I confronted Croydon and asked it to explain @MatthewDoyle31. Nobody had heard of him ever. A mealy mouthed reply."
Doyle eventually deleted his post and offered several explanations – one being he was misunderstood due to the 140-character limit of Twitter. "What everyone's got wrong about this is I didn't confront the woman...I just said: 'Excuse me, can I ask what you thought about the incident in Brussels?' She was white, and British, wearing a hijab – and she told me it was nothing to do with her," said Doyle. He has insisted that he is not a "mouthpiece" for "racism or radicalisation" and that he had previously helped his Muslim neighbour who had been burgled.
When asked if he regretted his tweets, he added: "I said how I felt at that moment in time. If anyone fanned the flames, it was the nameless Twitter trolls who smelt a lynching on their hands. For the Met to bow to social media rows, it is not only foolish of them but I will be making a complaint against them and [claiming for] damages for trashing my flat, taking all my electronic stuff from my flat and forcing me to leave London."
The offence of inciting racial hatred carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.