Met 'cannot enforce taste and decency', Commissioner says after Home Sec questions why officers allowed 'jihad' chant

23 October 2023, 16:06

It comes after a meeting between the Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley and Home Secretary Suella Braverman
It comes after a meeting between the Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley and Home Secretary Suella Braverman. Picture: Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has said his officers cannot "enforce taste and decency" after concerns were raised over officers allowed 'jihad' chants at a pro-Palestine protest.

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It comes after the Metropolitan Police said it was told about clips showing a man at a Hizb ut-Tahrir protest chanting "jihad" during a campaign in London on Saturday.

The Home Secretary Suella Braverman confronted Mr Rowley on Monday about why officers allowed the chants to go ahead.

Ms Braverman is understood to have told Mr Rowley that “there can be no place for incitement to hatred or violence” and police “must crack down on anyone breaking the law”.

But the Commissioner has shrugged off criticism from the Home Secretary, insisting his officers cannot "enforce taste and decency".

Speaking after his meeting with the Home Secretary, Mr Rowley said the law needed to be strengthened, particularly in relation to social media.

Sir Mark Rowley
Sir Mark Rowley. Picture: Getty

"I think the law we have designed around hate crime and terrorism in recent decades hasn't taken full account of the ability extremist groups to steer around those laws and propagate some pretty toxic messages through social media," Mr Rowley told Sky News.

"Those lines probably need redrawing. It's a really difficult thing to do. if you look at the counter extremism Commissioner report. It has many examples in there...one of the things we found is countries across the world which have different frameworks which have some advantages."

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Read more: Suella Braverman to challenge Met police after ‘jihad’ chant at London protest was allowed by officers

"For example, Hizb ut-Tahrir who were protesting at the weekend, some of their protests have caused deep concern...they are banned in Germany, they are also banned across most of the Muslim world."

He went on: "There are frameworks which are more assertive in some respects than ours."

“We are accountable for the law. We cannot enforce taste or decency but we can enforce the law," he added.

A protester carries a sign saying 'War Crime' as they march across London
A protester carries a sign saying 'War Crime' as they march across London. Picture: Getty

Despite concerns, ffficers will not be given new powers to police protests, Downing Street has insisted.

There are no plans to change the law because the Metropolitan Police already has "extensive powers" to deal with protests, No10's spokesperson said.

“Some of these scenes will have likely been incredibly distressing for people to witness, not least to the UK’s Jewish community who deserve to feel safe at what must be an incredibly traumatic time," Rishi Sunak's spokesperson said.

“We do believe the police have extensive powers in this space and we will continue to discuss with them so there is clarity and agreement about how they can be deployed on the ground.”

Asked whether there were plans to give police more powers, he said: "I'm not aware of any, no."

Ms Braverman is expected to challenge Sir Mark Rowley over the incident on Monday.
Ms Braverman is expected to challenge Sir Mark Rowley over the incident on Monday. Picture: Alamy

Police said specialist officers had reviewed clips of a man chanting "jihad, jihad" and signs and banners that referred to Muslim armies but said it did not identify any offences.

It added that "jihad" has "a number of meanings" while "there are varying interpretations" of what "Muslim armies" can refer to.

Sir Rowley defended his officers’ decision speaking to Ms Braverman on Monday and argue that the demonstrators could not have been prosecuted for their actions under existing legislation.

It comes after immigration minister Robert Jenrick said that the Met’s conclusion of the incident was “surprising” as he suggested they should have been met with the “full force of the law”.

Speaking to LBC’s Andrew Castle on Sunday morning, Mr Jenrick said: "I think a lot of people would find the Metropolitan Police analysis surprising and that's something we intend to raise with them and to discuss this incident with them."

He added: "I don't think that there's any place for chants of 'jihad' on the streets of Britain, I think that's totally unacceptable.

"In the context that was said yesterday, from what I've seen, that is an incitement to terrorist violence.

"Ultimately it's a decision for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service whether to take action, it's not for me to tell them what to do.

"Beyond the legality there is a question of values and I would hope there would be a consensus in this country that chanting 'jihad' on the streets of Britain is completely reprehensible and should not be allowed to continue."

Robert Jenrick calls cries of 'jihad' at Free Palestine march 'unacceptable'

Tens of thousands of people marched through the centre of London on Saturday and called for an end to Israel's attacks on Gaza.

Israel is bombarding the strip ahead of an expected ground invasion to destroy Hamas after the terror group massacred more than 1,000 people on October 7.

The demonstrators marched from Marble Arch to Parliament bearing Palestinian flags and green smoke devices.

Some were seen with signs bearing the controversial "rivers to the sea" slogan which some have deemed anti-Semitic.

The force said in a statement: "The word has a number of meanings but we know the public will most commonly associate it with terrorism.

"Specialist officers have assessed the video and have not identified any offences arising from the specific clip. We have also sought advice from specialist Crown Prosecution Service lawyers who have reached the same conclusion.

"However, recognising the way language like this will be interpreted by the public and the divisive impact it will have, officers identified the man involved and spoke to him to discourage any repeat of similar chanting.

"We are also aware of photos from the same protest showing signs and banners referring to 'Muslim armies'.

"While there are varying interpretations of what the language on the placards should be interpreted to mean, officers must take decisions based on the wording actually used.

"Again, this was subject to a careful assessment and no signs or banners were identified that were unlawful."

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