» Thursday, February 9, 2006

Abu Hamza

Asked why the authorities hadn’t dealt with Abu Hamza sooner, the PMOS said that the problem in terms of the case were to do with evidence. The important thing was that prosecution had been brought and the other important thing was that we were moving to make it easier to bring prosecutions in this kind of case. The Government was addressing the areas in terms of incitement and glorification and that was why next week would be important.

Asked about David Blunkett’s comments expressing exasperation at the authorities for not taking action earlier, the PMOS said that he did not wish to comment on newspaper columns, no matter how distinguished the writer, but it was important that we did everything we could to make it possible to take action against people who were inciting terrorism.

Asked why Abu Hamza hadn’t been prosecuted a couple of years ago, the PMOS pointed journalists to what the CPS and the Metropolitan Police had said about the difficulties of the evidence and the process of acquiring the evidence. People were less interested in witch-hunts and more interested in knowing if the government was now taking action, so that if someone did incite terrorism, particularly in the context of 7/7, then action would be taken and could be taken and that any area grey areas were closed off. Asked about Abu Hamza’s involvement with MI5 and suggestions of some kind of deal, the PMOS said that he had seen no evidence to support that suggestion.

Asked if this case provided a need to have another look at wire-tap evidence, the PMOS said that the first thing to say was that there was always a danger of people thinking we had a dogmatic objection to the use of wire-tap evidence. This was not the case, we looked at this issue continually. The reason we continually looked at it was because we saw why people felt it might be helpful in court cases. However in the real world, whilst you may gain a short term advantage of being able to use evidence from wire-taps in court cases, there was a real danger that in the process you damaged your intelligence networks in the medium to long term, by compromising operations or sources. You had to take that consideration very seriously and you had to take the advice you got on that kind of consideration very seriously. It was not about a dogmatic refusal to consider using wire-taps, it was about very real, practical concerns about not doing damage to our intelligence networks.

Asked if the Government felt that its inaction might leave it responsible for some of the crimes that had been committed which were advocated by Abu Hamza, the PMOS said that he rejected that absolutely. If the evidence was there then we would act. What we were doing in our current legislation was making it easier to act. Every time that the Government had put forward proposals for tightening legislation it had met considerable opposition. The Government, however, kept putting forward proposals for tightening legislation and would continue to do so.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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