Terror sentences to be reviewed after London Bridge attack

Via Financial Times

The Ministry of Justice has announced a review of licence conditions of people jailed for terror offences after a convicted terrorist killed two people and injured three more in a knife attack at London Bridge.

Usman Khan was released on licence in December 2018 just halfway through his 16-year sentence and was wearing a monitoring tag when he carried out the attack on Friday afternoon.

Boris Johnson has said “there are probably about 74” convicted terrorists who have been released from prison under licence since 2000.

The prime minister told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday that “they are being properly invigilated to ensure there is no threat to the public, and we took that action immediately”.

With the UK general election less than two weeks away, the attack has prompted a row between the Conservatives and Labour over the best way to deal with convicted terrorists being released from prison.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Sunday that convicted terrorists should “not necessarily” automatically serve their full prison sentence.

“I think it depends on the circumstances, it depends on the sentence but crucially depends on what they’ve done in prison”, he told Sky’s Sophie Ridge show.

“I think there has to be an examination of how our prison services work and crucially what happens to them on release from prison.”

But Mr Johnson pledged on Saturday to introduce mandatory minimum 14-year sentences for “serious” terror offences and ensure prisoners should not automatically be eligible for release on licence halfway through their sentences.

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“We are going to bring in tougher sentences for serious sexual and violent offenders and for terrorists,” he told the BBC.

“I absolutely deplore the fact that this man was out on the street, I think it was absolutely repulsive and we are going to take action.”

He repeatedly blamed “a leftie” Labour government for introducing the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act in 2008, which provided for automatic release after prisoners serving long sentences had served half their term, without the prisoners’ having to go before the parole board.

Khan was initially sentenced to an indeterminate sentence for public protection — a measure introduced by the Labour government in 2005 — for his part in an al-Qaeda-inspired plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange and establish a terrorist training camp.

The Imprisonment for Public Protection regime was later scrapped by the Conservative-led coalition in 2012. Khan was convicted in February 2012, before the indeterminate sentence was abolished.

In 2013, the Court of Appeal replaced his sentence with a 16-year-fixed term under which Khan served half the time in prison.

In an article for the Sunday Times Ian Acheson, a former counter-terrorism official who was asked to advise ministers on the risk of Islamist extremism in the UK’s prisons, said the government ignored repeated warnings about the risk posed by convicted terrorists released from jail.

“There must be a serious and sober review of the culture and capability of the . . . prison and probation service to meet its primary role of keeping is safe from terrorism,” Mr Acheson wrote. He added that his report in 2016, which included many recommendations on the risk of managing convicted terrorists, was eventually watered down by the ministry of justice.

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Yvette Cooper, who served as shadow home secretary from 2011-2015, questioned in a series of tweets why he had been released and said the government had been “warned” against ending IPPs.

Priti Patel, the Conservative home secretary, hit back that the law had been changed “to end Labour’s automatic release policy”.

Questions have been raised over the past 24 hours about Khan’s release from prison and why he was allowed to travel from his home in the West Midlands to carry out the attack in London.

This undated photo provided by West Midlands Police shows Usman Khan. UK counterterrorism police are searching for clues into an attack that left two people dead and three injured near London Bridge. Police said Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, Khan, who was imprisoned six years for terrorism offenses before his release last year stabbed several people in London on Friday, Nov. 29, before being tackled by members of the public and shot dead by officers on the London Bridge. (West Midlands Police via AP)
Undated photo of Usman Khan provided by West Midlands Police

Shami Chakrabarti, Labour shadow attorney-general, warned the government against a “knee-jerk” reaction.

She told the Andrew Marr show: “It’s very unedifying to be talking about knee jerk legislation and throwing away the key” and warned that “legislation on the hoof particularly after a terrorist attack is rarely good legislation”.

The Liberal Democrats accused Mr Johnson of making “political capital out of a tragedy” during an election campaign.

Deputy party leader Ed Davey told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “In the middle of an election, we shouldn’t be making political capital out of a tragedy, and he’s doing that, and he’s doing that in a way which is misleading people about what the law actually says.”

Chuka Umunna, the former Labour MP who is now a Liberal Democrat, said it was “unedifying” that the two main parties were using Friday’s terror attack as a “political football”. “Let’s draw a line under these silly games,” he added.