Extremism advisor proposes ‘proscription-light’ label to tackle groups like Palestine Action

Anti-Israeli groups attempt to shut down the Elbit factory in Leicester that produces drones for the country
Anti-Israeli groups attempt to shut down the Elbit factory in Leicester that produces drones for the country - PALESTINE ACTION

The Government’s political violence tsar is proposing a new “proscription-light” label to tackle groups like Palestine Action.

An official review by Lord Walney, the Government’s independent adviser on political violence and disruption, will call on ministers to clamp down on organisations which have a “policy” of conducting criminal acts.

His report is currently being pored over by Home Office officials and is due to be published  this week.

One of his recommendations is for ministers to set up a new legal classification to curtail the activities of groups which “interfere with the rights of others” or  “impede the proper functioning of democratic institutions or business”.

This would fall short of the restrictions that are in place when a group is proscribed on terrorism grounds but it is “a kind of proscription light”, according to Lord Walney.

Earlier this year, the policing minister warned police that Palestine Action is inciting activists to “smash up businesses with sledgehammers”.

Chris Philp said he has personally reported the group to the authorities over their manual which gives advice on “smashing windows and exterior equipment”, blocking companies’ pipes, and “breaking into your target and damaging the contents inside”.

Since October 7, Palestine Action has repeatedly targeted UK defence manufacturers which it claims have links to Israel. A member of the group was also videoed slashing and spray-painting a portrait of Lord Balfour, a former prime minister, at the University of Cambridge.

‘Criminal methods’

The group also boasted of having daubed red paint over the front of the London headquarters of a bank it said had investments in an Israeli weapons firm, and smashed the glass entrance to the building.

Lord Walney told The Telegraph that groups which use “avowedly criminal” methods, but fall below the threshold of terrorism, need to be dealt with under new powers because they are currently acting “as though they have legal impunity”.

“At the moment, Palestine Action is free to call meetings and advertise activist sessions where they instruct people who turn up on how to commit sabotage,” he said.

In his report, he recommends that his new “proscription-light” category would mean that such groups are restricted from fundraising and assembling.

Lord Walney’s report urges ministers to improve their understanding of extreme Left-wing groups.

“While the Government clearly has taken steps in recent years to improve understanding of the extreme Right – to bring it up to the level and depth of its understanding of Islamist and jihadist activities – it has not done the same with the far-Left or single-issue threats, violent or non-violent,” the report says.

He also recommends that ministers go further on face masks than their current measures, whereby demonstrators can be arrested if they fail to comply with a police officer’s instruction to remove a face covering.

Lord Walney recommends that ministers should allow police to impose a blanket ban on face coverings as a condition of a protest going ahead, if they have reasonable grounds to believe the masks “may be used by protestors to conceal their identity while committing illegal acts”.

Palestine Action was approached for comment.

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