Keir Starmer 'surprised' Met is investigating Israel-Gaza war crimes as teenagers stabbed to death in London

5 January 2024, 11:33

Sir Keir Starmer has said he is surprised the Met is asking for information about the Israel-Gaza war
Sir Keir Starmer has said he is surprised the Met is asking for information about the Israel-Gaza war. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Sir Keir Starmer has said he is "surprised" the Met is asking for information about war crimes in Israel and Gaza while people are getting stabbed to death or mugged in London.

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The Labour leader said the force will be "held to account" for the decision to put resources towards examining a war in the Middle East.

Detectives have been asking for arrivals at airports to pass on any information they may have about crimes against humanity there relating to either Hamas's October 7 massacre or Israel's attack on Gaza.

But it has been criticised for launching such a probe amid violent crime in London.

Among the most recent is the murder of Harry Pitman, a 16-year-old who was waiting to watch the New Year's fireworks at Primrose Hill when he was stabbed to death in what police believe was a "spontaneous" attack between strangers.

Speaking about the war crimes probe, Sir Keir - a former head of the Crown Prosecution Service - told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: "I was surprised at the decision.

"It is in the end a decision for the Metropolitan Police, for which they will have to be held to account.

Read more: Boris Johnson slams Met's support on investigation into 'war crimes' committed in Israel-Hamas conflict

Sir Keir Starmer has said he was "surprised" about the Met's war crimes probe
Sir Keir Starmer has said he was "surprised" about the Met's war crimes probe. Picture: Alamy

"My caution is that whatever I was involved in anything to do with criminal law, politicians wade all over it without knowing very much about what was actually going on.

"That wasn't always helpful. But to meet your central point, we've got one boy in my constituency, one in the next door constituency, a man in the next door constituency, that is a constituent of mine.

Read more: Keir Starmer calls for Met Police to 'look at' Prince Andrew accusations after duke named in Epstein files

"So in the last 10 days, my office and I have been dealing with two of these fatal stabbings.

"And that brings home to all of us the reality of these awful knife crimes."

Sir Keir's criticism followed an attack on the Met by Boris Johnson, who said he made it clear during his eight years as mayor of London that "we would not import foreign wars or disputes onto the streets of London".

Gaza has been pummelled by Israel
Gaza has been pummelled by Israel. Picture: Alamy

He said "the Met would be better off fighting knife crime in the capital" and added that he was worried about the "politicisation" of the police.

The Met has said it is investigating the October 7 attacks, which killed about 1,200 people in Israel, to help "coronial investigations" into the deaths of British nationals in the massacre.

Its War Crimes Team forms part of the Met's Counter Terrorism Command.

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The force said: "Following the 7 October attacks, and the escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas since, we began to see higher volumes of people returning to the UK from the region.

"In late November, posters signposting how people could contact CTP were displayed at certain airports to inform those who may have been witness to, or victim of, terrorism, war crimes or crimes against humanity of how they can get in touch.

"The poster deliberately referred to those in Israel and Gaza in order to provide a reporting route for all parties.

"It is important to note however, that contrary to some recent reports and commentary in the media and elsewhere, we have not opened or conducted our own UK-based War Crimes investigation into this matter.

"Any information provided to CTP that could be linked to potential war crimes assessed by the WCT and where relevant and appropriate, will be passed to the [International Criminal Court]."