Daily Mail

The thieves and thugs’ mantra NO FACE, NO CASE means masks should be banned on demos and in shops

- by Sue Reid

His head draped in the keffiyeh scarf, the young man stood in Hyde Park last saturday ready to march through London alongside pro-Palestine protesters.

To ensure not even the colour of his eyes could be seen, he topped off his headgear with a pair of sunglasses.

Walking past him were poppy-wearing people in dark clothes. They were heading for the afternoon’s Festival of Remembranc­e at the Royal Albert Hall.

‘Why is he hiding his face?’, i heard one middle-aged man ask his wife, putting a protective arm around her shoulder as they pushed their way through the crowds waving Palestinia­n flags.

Why indeed? But the keffiyeh-wearer was not alone in doing so.

The distinctiv­e scarf, a symbol of Palestinia­n nationalis­m, has become an essential accessory among many proPalesti­ne marchers. Others choose different methods of covering up their faces. Masks with the logo ‘Free Palestine’ can be bought for a few pounds online. still more opt for Covid medical masks.

i saw children wearing masks last saturday alongside their mothers, who had babies in buggies. some of the youngsters were so small they were struggling to hold their Palestinia­n black, white, and green flag upright as they walked along the pavement.

TWO police officers were photograph­ed posing with a child who was wearing a red and white keffiyeh to cover their face. it was so efficient at hiding their identity that it was impossible to tell whether they were a boy or a girl.

Quite why so many protesters feel the need to cover their face is far from clear. it surely can’t be the case that all of them are intent on committing crimes and using the anonymity to avoid police.

But there is no doubt that since the pandemic, when masks were normalised, covering up faces has become endemic in our society. in many cases, these masks are being used as a weapon of crime.

For it is not just protesters. shoplifter­s, moped thieves, muggers and drug dealers in the streets are all wearing masks in the knowledge that if their faces are hidden it will help thwart police attempts to identify them.

However good the CCTV, it cannot see through the masks to show facial features that are crucial to identifica­tion. And criminals get more than a sporting chance of escaping detection as a result.

scotland Yard recently released footage of an armed man wearing a black mask, with a similarly attired accomplice, holding staff at gunpoint in a Tesco store in Camden at 5.40pm on October 1.

While the first pointed a handgun at staff, the other stole several items and ran. According to the police account, 40 minutes later the same men entered a Nisa Local grocery store seven minutes’ walk away and carried out a robbery. Days later they were back at the same Nisa store with a gun, a knife and a hammer and stealing once again. They haven’t been caught.

And what of the attempted robbery in Mossley Hill, Liverpool, when two men with face coverings and armed with an axe approached a driver and tried — unsuccessf­ully — to open the cash box he was delivering to Barclays bank?

The september raid was described by police as a ‘frightenin­g attack’ on someone ‘just doing their job’. The masked gang fled in an Audi and are still to be identified.

Then there was this year’s so-called ‘no face, no case’ trial of two men jailed for a combined total of 15 years and nine months for a string of robberies of cash, alcohol and cigarettes at stores in Leeds.

The masked duo, armed with a samurai sword, were only identified when a clever detective recognised one of them from his gait and his voice, captured on CCTV. ‘We know that offenders like them brag about “no face, no case” if they wear masks while committing offences, but [we] have shown them that their arrogance is misplaced,’ police said when the pair were jailed.

so commonplac­e is the practice of wearing face coverings that, a few weeks ago, masked men appeared in the public gallery of Belfast’s Crown Court during a murder trial linked to a paramilita­ry organisati­on.

The Lady Chief Justice of Northern ireland labelled the intimidati­on unacceptab­le and has since demanded an investigat­ion. This perverse legacy of Covid has to be addressed. The time has come to force people to show their faces, even if it treads on sensitive issues such as the use of the burka for islamic women.

Despite our proud tradition of tolerance, masks should be banned at protests and in stores. shopkeeper­s should have no qualms about stopping people from entering unless they show their faces.

Every day, hundreds of crimes are being committed by those with their faces obscured. The criminals are laughing at us.

The irony is that only a few years ago people were being fined for not wearing a mask during Covid.

Now the boot is on the other foot, for nowhere have masks been taken up more fervently than among anti- semites, terrorist sympathise­rs, Hamas apologists, thieves and thugs.

On Thursday, a pro-Palestinia­n protest appeared to tip into criminalit­y when a masked man used a mallet to smash up the roof of defence firm Leonardo’s factory in southampto­n. Protesters from Palestine Action said they aimed to ‘halt the production of weaponry used to target and massacre’ the people of Gaza.

in a separate developmen­t this week, the Metropolit­an Police launched a hunt for 11 men, some of whom wore ‘Hamasstyle headscarve­s’, waved pro- terror signs and allegedly incited racial hatred during London’s pro-Palestine rallies. One man was charged for refusing to remove his face covering at the first rally. But the police have their hands tied. There is no explicit law that bans face coverings, though an officer who believes a person is using an item to conceal his identity can ask them to remove it, under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Refusal to do so allows the person to be charged. so what of that young man i saw who had covered his head and face last saturday? When i passed him in a taxi i called out: ‘i hope you’re not here to cause trouble.’

‘ Oh, no, no, no . . .’ he assured me, in a northern accent. He and his fellow protesters — many sporting similar headgear — certainly looked ready for battle with someone or something.

Perhaps he really wasn’t looking for trouble. Perhaps he had no intention of evading police attention. Perhaps he was masked up simply to terrify those going about their daily business in London.

Whatever the case, his behaviour — and that of all those who cover their faces and identities — is an affront to British values. And it is an unwelcome gesture that goes hand in hand with criminalit­y.

 ?? Picture: KERRY DAVIES ?? Faceless protesters: Mask-wearers during a pro-Palestine march in London and, inset, a man on last Saturday’s rally covering his face with a keffiyeh scarf
Picture: KERRY DAVIES Faceless protesters: Mask-wearers during a pro-Palestine march in London and, inset, a man on last Saturday’s rally covering his face with a keffiyeh scarf
 ?? ??
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom