City Hall has made it known that Sadiq Khan backs Sir Mark Rowley’s view that laws against hate crime might need to be strengthened, with a source close to the Mayor saying government ministers “need to stop dragging their feet” over the issue.
The intervention follows remarks by the Met Commissioner after a meeting between him and Home Secretary Suella Braverman at which they discussed how the police had made use of their powers to prevent chants and language deemed to constitute hate crime at Saturday’s pro-Palestinian protests in central London.
“We are absolutely ruthless in tackling anybody who puts their foot over the legal line,” Rowley told BBC News, and revealed that his conversation with Braverman had concluded about where the law places that line.
“It’s our job to enforce to that line,” Rowley said. “It’s parliament’s job to draw that line.” He added: “Maybe events of the moment are illustrating maybe some of the lines aren’t quite in the right place.”
There has been debate about whether or not a man seen at a protest separate from the main one shouting “jihad” should have been arrested. The police have concluded on the strength of a video clip posted online that he had not committed an offence under the relevant legislation and Crown Prosecution Service lawyers had come to the same conclusion.
The City Hall source said: “Hate crime is taken seriously by the police, but they can only operate within their legal framework. It better updated guidance will allow officers to take better decisions on the ground and around protests generally, that’s something minister should take seriously.”
Rowley cited for the BBC reports recommending more strength, fairness and clarity in hate crime laws, including one by the Law Commission. Rowley himself has co-authored a review examining the adequacy of existing legislation.
The City Hall source said Rowley’s raising the matter with Braverman was “not the first time” a police chief had done so, and concluded: “Officers need clarity in the law and ministers need to stop dragging their feet”.
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