The Commission for Countering Extremism has called on the UK government to close a loophole that has allowed individuals to spread extremist ideologies and views online without any repercussions or fear of prosecution.
The commission’s recommendation was made after a legal review into the adequacy of existing legislation to combat the issue of hateful extremism was conducted by Sir Mark Rowley, a retired senior police officer who had been in charge of UK Counter Terrorism policing from 2014 to 2018
“Extremist groups whether neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, Islamist or others are able to operate lawfully, freely and with impunity,” Lead Commissioner Sara Khan warned in a statement.
Without action from the government, the commission laid out how hateful extremists will continue to be able to create “a climate conducive to hate crime, terrorism or other violence” and will be able to attempt “to prod and even destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of our democratic society.”
This is a threat to our civilised democratic order, which cannot be taken for granted and requires a robust, necessary and proportionate legal response.
As current legislation is primarily aimed at dealing with the threat of terrorism, the commission explained that extremist activity, from radical Islamism to white supremacy, is not covered by law if it does not cross a threshold of severity.
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The commission is calling on the government to make three changes to rectify the existing failings in the UK’s response. The first recommendation is to create a new legal and operational framework to counter hateful extremism, including digital and in-person activity. Secondly, Rowley believes the UK should expand current offences on whipping up hatred, boosting the ability of law enforcement to address it. Finally, the commission seeks to elevate concerns around hateful extremism, calling on officials to treat it in the same way as terrorism.
The UK government will now consider the findings of the commission and issue a response to its recommendations in due course.
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