• Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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Met commissioner urges clarity on extremism amid criticism

Mark Rowley said his officers would “ruthlessly” arrest anyone who commits a hate crime

FILE PHOTO: Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley looks on during a visit from Britain’s King Charles III to thank emergency service workers at Lambeth HQ on September 17, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Carl de Souza – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

BRITAIN’s most senior police officer said he would support a review into the legal definition of extremism in response to criticism of the way his officers handled pro-Palestinian protests in London.

Antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents have surged in Britain since a deadly rampage by Hamas gunmen in Israel on Oct. 7, and Israel’s retaliatory attacks on Gaza since then, with massive pro-Palestinian demonstrations held in London and other major UK cities, and vigils by Jewish groups in solidarity with hostages who were taken by the militants.

Some British politicians have criticised London’s police after they failed to arrest people at a pro-Palestinian rally shouting “jihad”. The police later said the phrase could have a number of meanings, concluding no offence had taken place.

Mark Rowley, head of London’s Metropolitan Police force, said his officers would “ruthlessly” arrest anyone who commits a hate crime, but there could only be prosecutions when the law is broken.

“There is scope to be much sharper in how we deal with extremism within this country,” he told Sky News. “The law was never designed to deal with extremism, there’s a lot to do with terrorism and hate crime but we don’t have a body of law that deals with extremism and that is creating a gap.”

Ministers are reviewing the legal definition of extremism in a move designed to counter hate crimes, including antisemitism, according to one government official. This work began with the attacks in Israel, the official said.

The government is also examining potential changes to terrorism legislation, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which is responsible for examining the legal definition of extremism, declined to comment.

(Reuters)

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