SOFT JUSTICE PLAYS RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH OUR LIVES
Fury at London Bridge terrorist who was freed to kill
THE justice system is playing “Russian Roulette” with people’s lives by allowing dangerous terrorists back on the streets, a former counter-terror chief warned last night.
Appeal Court judges suggested that London Bridge killer Usman Khan may have just been “talking big” when he spoke of a plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange and target Boris Johnson.
The court cleared the way for his early release which left
him free to carry out Friday’s murderous attack which left two dead.
Last night Islamic State claimed responsibility for the outrage, calling Khan “one of its fighters”.
Chris Phillips, a former Detective Inspector who headed the UK National Counter Terrorism Security Office, said: “We’re convicting people for very, very serious offences and then they are releasing them back into society when they are still radicalised.
“How on earth can we ever ask our police services and our security services to keep us safe?
“We’re playing Russian Roulette with people’s lives.”
Khan, 28, was wearing a fake suicide vest when he murdered two people and stabbed three others before being shot dead by police.
In 2012 he admitted to plotting to blow up the London Stock Exchange as part of a Mumbai-style attack. The plot’s ringleader had a list of potential targets including home addresses belonging to Boris Johnson, then the Mayor of London, the Dean of St Paul’s and rabbis.
Khan was originally given an indeterminate sentence with a minimum of eight years – meaning he would only be released when considered to no longer pose a risk to the public.
But that changed on appeal the following year to a fixed sentence of 16 years which meant that he was automatically released after eight years. Because of the time he had spent on remand he ended up being released last year.
Appeal judges Lord Justice Leveson, Justice Mitting and Justice Sweeney made the changes after ruling that Khan’s involvement in the plot did not fall in the most serious category of terror offences.
Their judgment said: “Too much weight should not be placed on conversations for the purpose of ascribing comparative sophistication: it is not implausible that some self-publicists will talk big and other, more serious plotters, may be more careful and keep their own counsel.”
Government programmes were criticised yesterday after security sources revealed that Khan had taken part in a deradicalisation course.
Dr Rakib Ehsan, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, said: “This attack will cast further doubt over the effectiveness of so-called deradicalisation schemes including the Home Office’s Desistance and Disengagement programme which is designed to rehabilitate dangerous Islamists by helping them to reject firmly held, extremist anti-british ideologies.
“We must ask ourselves whether the ‘risk-reward trade-off’ is in favour of the broader public interest, when it comes to staterun rehabilitation courses for religious extremists.
“While they may be well-intentioned, the risk of hardened fundamentalists deceiving counsellors into believing that they are “deradicalised” is far too great – with potentially devastating consequences for the British public”.
Last night senior lawyers said assessment of danger levels should be taken out of judges’ hands, with a change in the law forcing anyone convicted of terror offences to undergo mandatory assessment before release.
Oliver Kirk – a barrister with more than 20 years’s experience in criminal law – said: “There must be a real argument that, if you’re convicted of a terror offence, you are of necessity deemed dangerous and there should be a risk assessment before you are released as to the extent you’ve been rehabilitated.
“I simply can’t see a justification for not doing this – and mine is a widely held view among the criminal justice system. It means you’re dealing with a person who is about to be released rather than the person only just convicted.”
Victim Jack was ‘beautiful spirit’
EARLY RELEASE: Lord Justice Leveson, Justice Sweeney, inset top, and Justice Mitting ruled that Khan, below, had been talking big