• Thursday, July 18, 2024


Met Police chief Rowley calls for tighter hate crime laws

The police force has been criticised for its approach to policing these protests, with some demanding Rowley’s resignation.

Sir Mark Rowley

By: Eastern Eye

METROPOLITAN Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has urged closing “outrageous” gaps in hate crime laws, which he claims permit individuals to legally incite racial and religious hatred.

Rowley said he found it “startling” that such incitement is possible as long as people avoid being explicitly threatening or abusive.

His comments came in the wake of controversy surrounding the Met’s handling of hate crimes and protests related to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The police force has been criticised for its approach to policing these protests, with some demanding Rowley’s resignation.

Senior Tory figures, including former home secretary Suella Braverman, and various campaign groups have pressured the police to ban large pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

However, Rowley stated that the legal threshold for such a ban has not been met. Rowley discussed the complexities of policing protests and hate crimes on the podcast A Muslim and a Jew Go There hosted by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and comedian David Baddiel.

He said the Met faced significant challenges in distinguishing between free speech and hate speech during these protests. He noted that while the police could impose certain conditions on protests, such as changing routes and timings, they did not have the power to ban protests outright.

“A march, a moving gathering, there is a power in extremis to ban but we’re nowhere near that threshold. If you listen to public rhetoric, you’d think we have the power to vanish this away. Even if that was a good idea, we don’t,” he was quoted as saying.

The police were striving to minimise the negative impact of protests on communities, particularly Jewish communities in London, which have reported increased fear and anxiety due to the rise in anti-semitic incidents.

Rowley disclosed that his team had been reviewing footage from the marches to spot any criminal offences, adding that it has been actively monitoring protests to identify hate crimes and potential terrorist activities.

Furthermore, he highlighted the potential role of hostile foreign states in exacerbating tensions surrounding the protests. He mentioned that countries such as Russia, Iran, and China, known for their espionage activities, could be trying to increase divisions within British society by influencing the debate around protest policing.

“I would be stunned if countries like Russia, Iran, and China weren’t trying to add to the polarisation of debate about protest policing,” he warned.

He also called for tighter laws to address inflammatory content online and urged politicians to consider plugging the gaps in legislation to provide clear guidelines for social media platforms to remove harmful content. “Having tight laws is important, both for ourselves but also to be fair to social media platforms. It gives them a clear duty to remove it,” he said.

Despite the pressures and criticisms, Rowley told the podcast he was committed to balancing free speech protection with preventing hate crimes. He reiterated the Met would continue to use its powers to impose conditions on protests to protect communities and maintain order.

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