Police have been criticised after they failed to arrest a man who was spotted near Big Ben draped in an Islamic State flag.
The man was photographed walking past a group of Scouts outside the Houses of Parliament in London wearing a large ISIS flag on his back. He was also carrying a child on his shoulders, who was waving a smaller flag.
The act was considered in particularly bad taste, given that it occurred just days before the anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings, and just one week after the beach shooting in Tunisia which killed 30 British tourists.
— Mete Sohtaoğlu (@metesohtaoglu) July 5, 2015
A statement released by the Metropolitan police confirmed that the man was seen by police but that his actions were not considered to be unlawful.
The statement said:
The man was spoken to by officers, with consideration given to relevant legislation, particularly the Public Order Act. The decision was taken by officers at the time that the man was acting within the law. He was not arrested.
Wearing, carrying or displaying of an emblem or flag, by itself, is not an offence unless the way in which, or the circumstance in which, the emblem is worn, carried or displayed is such as to cause reasonable suspicion that the person is a supporter or member of a proscribed organisation. While support of and membership of ISIS is unlawful it is not a criminal offence to advocate the creation of an independent state.
How can someone parade around central London draped in an #ISIS flag and not be arrested under public order offence? What a joke
— Joseph Ross ⚓️ (@jobieowen) July 5, 2015
How can a man be walking around central London with a ISIS flag and not be arrested…. Bloody joke!
— theblackhermione🌻 (@_tosana) July 5, 2015
Although some have slammed the decision on social media and questioned wider notions of public safety, the Home Office reiterated that the decision not to arrest the man was an operational one.