Stephen Timms: MP knifed in previous attack says police should do background checks

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Stephen Timms was among the MPs who paid tribute to Sir David Amess in the Commons  (PA)
Stephen Timms was among the MPs who paid tribute to Sir David Amess in the Commons (PA)

Police should look into the background of constituents wanting to visit MPs to help protect them from attacks, a politician who was the victim of a stabbing at his surgery said on Tuesday.

Stephen Timms said people making appointments to visit their MP could have their details checked by officers to check they are not a security risk.

It follows the killing of Sir David Amess on Friday prompting questions about MP safety and the threats they face.

Mr Timms, who has represented East Ham for 27 years, suffered life-threatening wounds in 2010 when he was knifed during his surgery by Islamic extremist Roshonara Choudhry.

He said that while the Government had to “look at arrangements” to protect MPs it was “vital” that they remained accessible to the public”.

“When we look at these arrangements we need to make sure we do not lose that quality of accessibility that I think is so important and so valuable,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“One suggestion I made was that we have a list of people coming in that make appointments [and] perhaps we could ask that police have a look through the list and see if there is anybody on the list that might give rise to some safety concerns.”

He added: “But what we mustn’t do is make it difficult or unpleasant for constituents to talk to their MP because that would be defeating the object of having surgeries in the first place.”

Mr Timms said he received an overwhelming “wave of support and warmth” after being attacked and he never considered giving up the job.

Some changes relating to the layout of his constituency surgery were made following the stabbing, but he “wanted to stay accessible” and continue meeting people face to face.

He added that while he did see some “unpleasantness” directed at him on social media, he did not regularly receive threats.

“I don’t feel that abuse is a big factor in my work at the moment,” he said. “But for many MPs, and particularly women MPs, it is, so I agree with the calls that were made for steps to be taken to deal with that.”

On Tuesday morning, International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie revealed the scale of abuse she has received online and that she had called the police after a person threatened to burn down her house with her children inside.

She told LBC: “The online trolling that I’ve had, I’ve had a certain amount. I’ve had to have someone arrested who was threatening to burn down my house when my children were in it.

“These things are ghastly and entirely wrong and our police forces work incredibly hard to support us as parliamentarians and to protect our families, but we are going to keep looking at that.”

On Monday, as the Prime Minister led tribute to Sir David in the Commons, MPs urged that the Online Harms Bill going through Parliament be “toughened up”.

Mark Francois proposed “David’s law” to crack down on social media abuse of public figures.

He said Sir David had “become increasingly concerned about the toxic environment in which MPs, particularly female MPs, were having to operate in”.

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