Ex­perts warn of UK counter-ex­trem­ism pol­icy cri­sis af­ter Lon­don Bridge at­tack

The National - News - - NEWS - NICKY HAR­LEY Lon­don

A for­mer Al Qaeda re­cruit, who is now a de­rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion spe­cial­ist, is lead­ing calls among UK ex­perts for the govern­ment to ur­gently tackle the fund­ing cri­sis in deal­ing with ter­ror­ist sus­pects.

Lon­don Bridge at­tacker Us­man Khan was not be­ing ef­fec­tively mon­i­tored af­ter his early re­lease from jail when he killed two Cam­bridge Univer­sity grad­u­ates and in­jured three oth­ers at a prison re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion event last Fri­day.

News of his at­tack led to re­ports of cheers from ex­trem­ists on the wings of the UK’s jails.

It has raised ur­gent ques­tions over the Home Of­fice’s abil­ity to ef­fec­tively mon­i­tor ex­trem­ists and the schemes run in pris­ons to re­ha­bil­i­tate them.

Khan was one of a num­ber of ex­trem­ists who car­ried out at­tacks across the UK de­spite be­ing on the radar of the se­cu­rity ser­vices. He, along with the pre­vi­ous Lon­don Bridge at­tack­ers, has been linked to hate preacher An­jem Choudary.

Yes­ter­day, Hanif Qadir, who ran de­rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion pro­gramme the Ac­tive Change Foun­da­tion, crit­i­cised the govern­ment for with­draw­ing vi­tal fund­ing for his pro­gramme.

He has claimed that his in­ter­ven­tions could have stopped at least three of the UK’s re­cent ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

Mr Qadir, who has run counter-rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion pro­grammes work­ing with some of the coun­try’s most dan­ger­ous ex­trem­ists for almost a decade, told his warn­ings have fallen on deaf ears.

Mr Qadir has first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of deal­ing with ex­trem­ists af­ter he was wooed to join Al Qaeda in Afghanista­n but af­ter see­ing atroc­i­ties he re­turned to the UK and cre­ated a pro­gramme to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple from ex­trem­ism.

He has crit­i­cised the lack of mon­i­tor­ing of Khan.

“I have worked with many in­di­vid­u­als and when you take them out you have cer­tain pro­to­cols, like check­ing the venue and at­ten­dees.

“By their na­ture these in­di­vid­u­als are de­vi­ous and ma­nip­u­la­tive. They do not trust you so why give them the ben­e­fit of the doubt and trust them. He should have been checked be­fore he left the area and when he ar­rived,” he told BBC Ra­dio Four.

Crim­i­nal bar­ris­ter Paul Gen­ney has had a long ca­reer in counter-ter­ror­ism.

He told “The UK pris­ons have been un­der­funded for so long. Cuts to ser­vices have led to this. There needs to be a rad­i­cal over­haul of the system with funds avail­able to of­fer pre­ven­tive mea­sures in the pris­ons and have more mon­i­tor­ing af­ter the re­lease of dan­ger­ous sus­pects.

“Khan slipped through the net due to the re­cent law changes, he should have still been in prison or at least been un­der close scru­tiny.

Khan had been re­leased hav­ing served less than half his sen­tence af­ter be­ing con­victed of a ter­ror­ism plot to blow up the Lon­don Stock ex­change.

Af­ter the in­ci­dent, Prime Min­is­ter Boris Johnson called for tougher sen­tenc­ing and pinned Khan’s re­lease on a Labour-era pol­icy, even as the fam­ily of one vic­tim Jack Mer­ritt, lam­basted Mr Johnson for ex­ploit­ing the 25 year old’s death for po­lit­i­cal gain.

Khan’s orig­i­nal sen­tence un­der the UK’s “Im­pris­on­ment for Public Pro­tec­tion” guide­lines would have been in prison un­til a Pa­role Board was sat­is­fied he posed no threat.

Thou­sands of low-level crim­i­nals were held with little chance of re­lease or re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. It led to the sen­tenc­ing pol­icy be­ing de­clared il­le­gal by the Euro­pean Court of Hu­man Rights in 2012 and changed by the Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment.

While that law was changed by the Con­ser­va­tives in 2012 to re­quire in­mates to serve two thirds of the sen­tence and to win Pa­role Board ap­proval for re­lease, Khan’s sen­tenc­ing fell un­der the pre­vi­ous pol­icy.

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