Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blunkett: We Could Have Tackled Hamza Years Ago

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blunkett: We Could Have Tackled Hamza Years Ago

Article excerpt

Byline: JASON BEATTIE

THE police and prosecutors could have acted against Abu Hamza years earlier, David Blunkett claimed today.

The former Home Secretary said the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service had dismissed warnings about the threat posed by the rogue cleric.

He said there was "deep reluctance" to take action, while fears about the impact of Hamza's preachings were dismissed as an "exaggeration." "Some people did not want to believe how serious it all was," Mr Blunkett said. His comments will intensify pressure on the authorities to explain why they failed to prosecute Hamza earlier, even though concerns were raised about his hate-filled rants more than seven years ago. The radical Muslim preacher was jailed for seven years on Tuesday after being found guilty of soliciting murder and preaching racial hatred in his sermons.

Writing in the Sun, Mr Blunkett claimed that the police and CPS dragged their heels over the issue because they feared a prosecution would cause tension with the Muslim community.

"So much for those in the police, security services and CPS who told me when I was home secretary that I was exaggerating the threat - and that the closure of the Fins-bury Park mosque where he preached his evil message would be a 'massive over reaction,'" he said.

"There was a deep reluctance to act on the information coming out of Abu Hamza's own mouth and some people did not want to believe how serious it all was.

"Time and time again members of all parties suggested that our overreaction would be detrimental to faith and community relations and that we should soft pedal."

The CPS received files on Hamza twice before 2004, but officials decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

However, it was reported today that the police had wiretap evidence against the Finsbury Park preacher seven years ago. …

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