Police defend delay in prosecuting Hamza

Officials today defended the time taken to prosecute radical cleric Abu Hamza, who was investigated “a number” of times before he was eventually taken to court on a string of race hate and terror charges.

The extremist preacher was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison yesterday for inciting his followers to murder and putting the lives of innocent people across the world in “real danger”.

After the 47-year-old’s month-long trial it was revealed he had been regarded, according to security sources, as a key figure in the global Islamic terror movement.

But in the wake of the case, a senior French intelligence chief has claimed the UK failed to take action against Hamza for years, despite evidence that he was involved in terrorism.

Scotland Yard confirmed today that comments by Hamza, the former imam of the controversial Finsbury Park mosque in north London, were investigated between 1999 and 2004.

But a spokesman said there had either been no offence committed or there had been insufficient evidence to support a prosecution.

Scotland Yard said in a statement: “Hamza was first arrested on March 15 1999 for conspiracy to kidnap and was subsequently released without further action after advice from Treasury Counsel that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.

“A number of complaints about comments made by Hamza were received between 1999 and 2004.

“All of these complaints were thoroughly investigated and involved close liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), who provided ongoing informal advice.

“In all cases, either no offence had been committed or there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

“More than 3,000 audio and video tapes were received during a search of Hamza’s home address in 2004.

“Following careful analysis of this material and close consultation with the CPS, charges were brought against Hamza in relation to nine of those tapes.”

A spokesman for the CPS added: “Previous submissions were in relation to a different investigation for which we found insufficient evidence to prosecute.

“The first tape in relation to this matter came to us at the end of 2003 and the majority of tapes submitted for the prosecution came after the searches in May 2004 when they were seized.”

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