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chief Mark Rowley The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has insisted ‘the law was never designed to deal with extremism’ amid a backlash against the force’s failure to crackdown on Islamists at Palestine protests.
Sir Mark Rowley called for greater clarity from the Government on policing extremism as he faces criticism over the handling of pro-Palestinian protests in London.
He said about 100 people had been arrested at demonstrations held since the Hamas attack on Israel three weeks ago, with ‘many more’ arrests expected in the near future.
It comes as Michael Gove has ordered a crackdown on extremism to counter anti-Jewish hatred amid rocketing cases of anti-Semitism following Hamas’ attack on Israel.
But the head of the country’s biggest police force said his officers are limited by legal definitions of extremism and arresting people without could risk ‘inflaming’ the situation with the prosecutors.
Sir Mark said he would support a review into the legal definition of extremism and how it should be policed.
He told Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News: ‘There is scope to be much sharper in how we deal with extremism within this country.
‘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.’
The Met chief said there has been a 14-fold increase in antisemitic incidents since the crisis started three weeks ago, and a three-fold increase in crimes against the Muslim community.
He said lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service are working in the police operations room to help identify offences.
Nine people were arrested in central London during a mainly peaceful pro-Palestine demonstration on Saturday, which was attended by at least 100,000 people calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.
Seven of those were alleged public order offences, a number of which were being treated as hate crimes, while two were for suspected assaults on officers.
chief Mark Rowley Age
chief Mark Rowley Age is 58 years old.
‘The law was never designed to deal with extremism’
Sir Mark said: ‘We’ve got these big protests and some of what goes on there, people do find it upsetting and distasteful and sometimes people give an instinctive view that must not be legal.
‘But there’s no point arresting hundreds of people if it’s not prosecutable, that’s just inflaming things.
‘We will robustly enforce up to the line of the law. We’re going to be absolutely ruthless and we have been and you’ll see many more arrests over the next week or so.’
Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove is understood to have ordered officials to draw up a new official definition of extremism in a move designed to counter hate, including antisemitism.
The Sunday Telegraph has reported officials in the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities are examining a suggested new definition of hateful extremism.
The work is understood to have started before violence flared up again in the Middle East.
Separately, the Home Office is examining potential changes to terrorism legislation.
A spokesman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities declined to comment on Sir Mark’s comments. The Home Office has been approached for comment.
Ministers are reviewing the definition of extremism in a move that could reportedly allow councils and police forces to cut off funding to funding and religious groups found to have aired hateful views.
And the Levelling Up Secretary is understood to have ordered officials to draw up a new official definition of extremism in a move designed to counter hate, including antisemitism.
It comes after nine people were arrested in central London during a mainly peaceful pro-Palestine demonstration on Saturday where at least 100,000 protesters called for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.
Seven of those were alleged public order offences, a number of which are being treated as hate crimes, while two are for suspected assaults on officers.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed it was reviewing a potential ‘hate crime incident’ in Trafalgar Square following chanting that referenced the Medieval Battle of Khaybar, referring to a massacre of Jews in 628 by Islamic forces.
Officers also followed-up on reports that a pamphlet was being sold along the route of the march that praised Hamas, the force confirmed on social media.
Hamas, which carried out a deadly attack on Israel on October 7 during which Palestinian militants killed 1,400 people, is a proscribed terrorist organization in the UK, with expressions of support for it banned.
In a development first reported by The Sunday Telegraph, officials in the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities are examining a suggested new definition of hateful extremism.
The work is understood to have started before violence flared up again in the Middle East. The Whitehall department is considering definitions published in 2021 as part of a report Sir Mark Rowley, now head of the Met, was involved with.
The report urged ministers to do more to eradicate extremism, with the official watchdog, the Commission for Countering Extremism, concluding then that gaps within current legislation had left it harder to tackle ‘hateful extremism’.
Separately, the Home Office is examining potential changes to terrorism legislation, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
The pro-Palestinian protests in the UK, with other demonstrations taking place in Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast – and another scheduled in Bristol on Sunday – took place against a backdrop of a worsening picture in the Middle East.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his nation that the military has opened a ‘second stage’ in the war against Hamas by sending ground forces into Gaza and expanding attacks from the ground, air and sea.
He said these will only increase ahead of a broad ground invasion into the 25-mile territory.
Mr Netanyahu added: ‘It will be long and difficult. ‘We are ready.’
An Israeli bombardment, described by Gaza residents as the most intense of the war, has knocked out most communications in the strip. It has largely cut off the besieged enclave’s 2.3 million people from the world and each other.
The Palestinian death toll in Gaza on Saturday rose to just over 7,700 people since the war started three weeks ago, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.
A No 10 source said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had been briefed on developments in the war throughout the weekend.
The increase in fighting has put pressure on Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer to change his stance on the conflict.
The Opposition leader is supporting the Conservative UK Government’s diplomatic push for ‘humanitarian pauses’ in the fighting to allow aid into Gaza and for people trapped in the bombarded territory to leave.
But a host of shadow ministers on Saturday broke ranks to voice their support for a ceasefire.
Sir Keir’s team declined to answer when asked if the frontbenchers pushing publicly for a ceasefire, including the likes of shadow Home Office minister Jess Phillips and shadow solicitor general Andy Slaughter, would be able to remain in post, having deviated from Labour’s official position.
Attempts to contact Birawi were unsuccessful this week.