Government plans to crack down on ‘extremists’ have been questioned by senior QC David Anderson, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws.
Anderson said “all sorts of people” could come under suspicion from the proposals.
The Government is currently preparing its Extremism Bill, but comments already made by senior Conservative figures have raised serious concerns about the threat to free speech.
Speaking on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, Anderson warned that if current laws are extended, then controversial views could trigger the “whole apparatus of the surveillance state”.
He acknowledged that it was important to be able to challenge different views but warned: “I don’t always think the State is the right body to be doing that”.
Earlier this year Sir Jonathan Evans, a former head of MI5, said that street preachers could be targeted by the Government’s crackdown.
Sir Jonathan, who served as Director General of the security intelligence agency between 2007 and 2013, said he could imagine Christian preachers being targeted “out of misplaced zeal”.
In July a Conservative MP said Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs), would be used to stop teachers from teaching that gay marriage is wrong.
In a letter to a constituent, Mark Spencer initially claimed: “The EDOs will not serve to limit free speech, but rather to guarantee it”.
But he went on to add that EDOs “would apply in situations where a teacher was specifically teaching that gay marriage is wrong”.