Ministers’ creating ‘thought police,’ says Anti-radicalisation boss

By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor

Government plans targeting suspected extremists are so troubled they could create a “thought police” in the UK.

This bold statement comes from Simon Cole, the police boss leading the action to stop people becoming radicalised and possibly leaving to become foreign fighters or taking part in home-grown acts of terrorism.

Cole, police lead for the Prevent programme, does not believe that proposals targeting extremists can be enforceable. He thinks the strategy risks making police officers judges of “what people can and can not say”.

His comments in the Guardian come after the planned Conservative government bill which was mentioned in the Queen’s speech.

Cole said: “Unless you can define what extremism is very clearly then it’s going to be really challenging to enforce.

“We don’t want to be the thought police, we absolutely don’t want to be the thought police.

Asked if government plans create a danger of that, Cole said: “Potentially there is a risk.”

A statement backed by Liberty, Index on Censorship, the Muslim Council of Britain, and Sir Peter Fahy, says: “We are gravely concerned that the proposed counter-extremism and safeguarding bill will feed the very commodity that the terrorists thrive on: fear.

“These proposals will serve to alienate communities and undermine free speech, but there is scant evidence that they will tackle the terrorism we all want to confront.”

The new bill which has been proposed is aimed to extend the counter-terrorism fight in the UK. People who are defined as radical extremists but don’t actually plan or advocate acts of terrorism, will be legislated against. The concern would be where someone’s views and beliefs step over the line and become dangerous, a task the police seem concerned to have to make the call on.

Those who support the bill believe that these extremists are closely aligned to others who actually plan terrorist atrocities, and therefore should be prosecuted in some way, as they themselves undermine the core British values that the rest of the UK shares.

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