» Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Abu Hamza

Asked if the Prime Minister believed that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) should have acted quicker against Abu Hamza, the PMOS said that, as journalists knew, we had an independent Crown Prosecution Service for very good reasons. This was how it operated. It was therefore a matter for the police and the CPS to independently decide whether prosecutions could go forward. However, without referring directly to the Abu Hamza case, this illustrated why the government believed there were additional powers that were necessary in this area. This was why we had put forward legislation, for instance on glorification, that would come back to the House next week.

Asked if he was suggesting that this illustrated why the extra powers on glorification were needed and whether perhaps Abu Hamza could have been arrested earlier in the day, the PMOS said it was a fact, and part of the reason why we had put forward the new legislation, that in the past it had been identified that there was a grey area where it had been difficult to prove incitement. This was why we had framed the offence very clearly on the realm of people making statements so that they understood they would be considered to be encouraging acts of terrorism. That was why it was important that we encompassed glorification as part of that the new legislation. It was not acceptable for people to glorify terrorist acts or to encourage others to prepare and commit terrorist acts. It was important to send a clear signal to the courts that this was parliament’s intention.

Put to the PMOS that the Abu Hamza case proved that incitement was not needed as he had been prosecuted, the PMOS said he would point out that there had been a period, during which the police had said they had wanted to see a prosecution but the difficulty had been proving the case. As we had said previously there was a grey area in proving incitement. This was why the government wanted to close the loophole. In the past there had been opposition to such proposals despite the overall change in environment since 9/11 and 7/7.

Asked if he was making the link between the Hamza case and the grey area in proving incitement and glorification, the PMOS said it was not for him to speculate about individual cases and he would not. But it was a fact of life that in the past it had been difficult to prove incitement cases because of this grey area in legally proving that statements directly encouraged terrorism. We were now in the process of putting forward legislation that encompassed and clarified that grey area. We wanted to send to the courts a very clear signal that those who glorified terrorism were breaking the law.

Asked whether Ministers would use the Hamza case to further the argument, the PMOS said he would not comment directly on the Abu Hamza case, but he thought the context was clear. If journalists looked back at when we had introduced the legislation it had always been clear what our intention was.

Asked to clarify that the need to close the loophole and grey area was because in the current legislation you needed to prove terrorism, the PMOS said he was not arguing with the analysis but it was also needed to send a clear signal to the court that those who glorified terrorism were acting against the law. Asked how this covered a situation that may arise that was equivalent to Nelson Mandela and the ANC, the PMOS said he would not get into hypotheticals. We were dealing with the situations that we faced now in terms of people who made speeches glorifying terrorist bombers. So what you had to deal with was the situation now and not the past.

Asked what if someone likened Hamas to the French resistance, the PMOS said it was for the courts to interpret such things. The courts would be clear and the legislation was framed in such a way as to be clear as to what constituted a glorification of terrorism or an incitement to terrorism of others.

Briefing took place at 8:00 | Search for related news

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