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HomeworldScotland Yard chief calls for 'sharper' anti-extremism laws in UK

Scotland Yard chief calls for 'sharper' anti-extremism laws in UK

London: The chief of Britain’s largest police force on Sunday called for ‘sharper’ laws to deal with extremism on the streets of the country, a day after Scotland Yard made nine arrests including two for assaults on its officers as thousands marched across the UK in response to the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley told ‘Sky News’ that his officers are working ‘ruthlessly’ to arrest anyone who ‘steps over the line’ by committing a hate crime.

There has been a surge in antisemitic and Islamophobic hate crimes in the UK since the conflict in the Middle East intensified earlier this month. The Met Police said it has recorded 408 antisemitic offences against Britain’s Jewish communities this month, compared to 28 in the same period last year, and Islamophobic hate crime was up from 65 offences in October 2022 to 174 this month.

“I think there is scope to be much sharper in how we deal with extremism in this country. The law was never designed to deal with extremism,” said Rowley.

‘We have law to deal with terrorism, we have law to deal with hate crime, we don’t have a body of law to deal with extremism and that is creating a gap,” he said.

It comes as government ministers, including UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, called into question the lack of arrests related to chants of “jihad” at a pro-Palestinian protest last weekend.

According to reports, the British government may be reconsidering its definition of extremism amid concerns the Met Police aren’t being tough enough against protesters they believe are inciting hatred in the country.

Rowley said that while there have been ‘distasteful’ scenes at recent pro-Palestinian protests in London, they were not at the level to be prosecuted.

“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,” he told ‘Sky News‘.

“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,” he added.

It came after thousands marched across London on Saturday, with similar protests in Manchester, Glasgow, Belfast and other UK cities. A sea of Palestinian flags and banners could be seen in these cities as the demonstrators demanded an end to the violence which has seen an upsurge in the Israel-Hamas conflict in recent days.

“Today we have made nine arrests: seven for Public Order offences, two for assaults on officers. A number of the Public Order arrests are being treated as hate crimes,” said the Met Police, which had deployed more than 1,000 officers to police the London demonstrations.

The force released an image of one of its officers hospitalised with an injury to his head and also released images of protesters who they said were being sought to be questioned related to a hate crime incident at Trafalgar Square in London.

(Published 29 October 2023, 12:26 IST)

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