Fury at Lon­don Bridge ter­ror­ist who was freed to kill

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - By Marco Gian­nan­geli and Jon Austin

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

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