Radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza could have been arrested earlier but security services failed to act for fear of provoking a race crisis, former Home Secretary David Blunkett revealed.
The Metropolitan Police, MI5 and the Crown Prosecution Service dismissed claims he was a danger and did not consider him to be a significant enough threat, according to Mr Blunkett.
He told the Sun: “Time and time again members of all parties suggested that our over-reaction would be detrimental to faith and community relations and we should soft-pedal.”
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Writing in the Sun, the MP says that the agencies told him when he was Home Secretary that he was exaggerating the threat and that to close the Finsbury Park Mosque where Hamza preached would be “a massive over-reaction”.
It is understood that he assured the authorities that he would give them political backing if they raided the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London to arrest the cleric.
“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,” he writes.
Referring to the violent worldwide reaction to the publication of cartoons portraying the prophet Muhammad, Mr Blunkett said two positive things had come out of the situation.
First Britain’s Muslim community had “stood up” against those who had violently protested outside the Danish embassy in London last week and that in the wake of the protests police may be given the political backing to “take a tough stance”.
He added: “From now on the message should be clear – if you threaten or incite the death of others, if you seek to destroy our society, we will act against you.”
Hamza, 47, was jailed for seven years at the Old Bailey on Tuesday after being convicted of a string of race hate and terror charges.