» Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Abu Hamza Verdict

Put that given all the public concerns about incitement over the last few days, what did the Prime Minister think about the verdict of the court and the sentence in the Abu Hamza case, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that sentencing was a matter for judges, and he was not going to comment on sentencing. In terms of the court judgement, however, as the Attorney General had said, what it proved was that the original decision to prosecute was the right one. That should give the public some assurance about the Government’s determination to uphold the law in this matter. As people knew, we were putting forward further proposals which would come to Parliament again next week, and we hoped that they would attract as much support as possible.

Asked which proposals in particular, the PMOS said glorification and incitement.

Asked if the PMOS was referring very specifically to the clause the House of Lords removed, the PMOS said that, amongst other things. What was important was that we recognised that the events of the past week had once again underlined that there was a real issue, and that had to be addressed.

Asked if there were any proposals to bring back fresh amendments, the PMOS said he was not aware of any fresh proposals, but he was aware that we wanted to overturn what the Lords did.

Asked if the word "incitement" figured in the Terrorism Bill, as glorification was a contentious issue, the PMOS replied that it was in effect what amounted to incitement when people were hearing speeches being made, etc.

Asked with regards to the Hamza case, was the BNP decision therefore not the right one, the PMOS said the journalist should not read across simplistically from one case to another. The court had reached its judgement on the BNP case, and we had to respect that judgement. What it did show was that in this case, and there were concerns expressed at the time about the decision to prosecute in this case, that the decision to prosecute was the right one.

Asked if there was any news on whether Abu Hamza should be sent over to America after his sentence, the PMOS said it depended on whatever requested we received for extradition at the time.

Asked if this successful prosecution showed that there was no gap in the law for a glorification in crime glorification, the PMOS said: no. The PMOS said that if people spoke to most legal authorities in this area, they conceded that there was a grey area where it was not direct incitement, but what could be reasonably interpreted as incitement to others. That was the area in which we were operating. This case fell under one particular circumstance, but there were other cases which fell into a greyer area.

Asked if there was an application for Abu Hamza to be deported to America, would he serve his seven years first, the PMOS said we should deal with where we were at the moment. If the circumstances arose, we would deal with it one step at a time.

Asked if the failure of the police to be "even handed" with some of the Muslim protesters would play into the hand of the far right, the PMOS said that the police had set out why they had chosen the course of action that they had. As the PMOS had indicated yesterday, we needed to respect the balance that the police had to strike between on the one hand, gathering evidence for possible action on a future date, and on the other, not provoking an already tense situation. In this country, the right thing to do was to respect the operation of the independence of the police. The PMOS said that people had views about it, but we had to respect the way in which the rule of law worked, and that was the best way in which to uphold the law.

Briefing took place at 7:00 | Search for related news

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