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