Keir Starmer has dismissed Theresa May’s declaration she may change human rights law in an attempt to combat terrorism in the wake of the London Bridge attack as a “diversion”.
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, who served as Director of Public Prosecutions, said there was “nothing” in the Human Rights Act that prevented authorities from fighting terrorism.
“There is no incompatibility between protecting human rights and taking effective action against terrorists,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Starmer said the focus should be on whether cuts in police funding over the last six years has had an impact on the amount of intelligence that is able to be gathered.
“There is nothing in the Human Rights Act that gets int the way of effectively tackling terrorism. I can say that with this authority, I was Director of Public Prosecutions for five years. I worked very closely with the security and intelligence services and we prosecuted very serious criminals. The Human Rights Act did not get in the way of what we were doing,” he said.
He added: “This is a diversion.”
May - who has been under pressure over security in the wake of the London Bridge attack - signalled on Tuesday she was ready to tear up some elements of human rights laws to counter the extremist threat.
She told supporters at a rally in Slough they could include new measures to restrict the movements of suspects who have not been convicted of any offence as well as making it easier to deport foreign suspects.
“If our human rights laws stop us from doing it, we will change the laws so we can do it. If I am elected as prime minister on Thursday, that work begins on Friday,” she said.
Jeremy Corbyn said Labour wanted to “protect our basic freedoms, our basic democracy and our human rights”.
“We are signed up to the European convention on human rights. Our Human Rights Act protects our rights,” he told Sky News.
Former Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg told Today that May’s intervention was “rather crass”. He said there was “not a shred of evidence” to suggest that human rights laws had anything to do with the Manchester or London attacks.
Jonathan Bartley, Green Party co-leader, said “sacrificing our human rights in the name of fighting terrorism is exactly what terrorists want”.
“If May throws away our freedoms she is letting the terrorists win. Proposing to tear up human rights laws is a knee jerk reaction and could be dangerously counterproductive,” he said.