More than 100 fanatics are on anti-terror scheme
London Bridge attack raises doubts over ‘detoxification’
CALLS are growing for an urgent review of a counter-radicalisation scheme that Usman Khan was on before he launched the London Bridge terror attack.
Figures obtained by the Mail show that at least 110 convicted and suspected terrorists are subject to the Desistance and Disengagement Programme.
The number of freed extremists engaged in the Home Office’s secretive ‘detoxification’ strategy has soared over the past two years and questions were being asked last night over whether the public are being protected. Khan was taking part in the programme when he slaughtered two people in cold blood at a prisoner rehabilitation conference.
Developed while Theresa May was home secretary, it was launched in 2016. According to figures released under freedom of information rules, four individuals went on the programme during its initial six months in 2016-17. That rose to 64 in 2017-18, then to 110 in 2018-19.
The number is now expected to be even higher as more terror convicts are freed from jail. Official figures show that 97 were released in the two years to March. Spending has rocketed from £1million in the first full year of the programme to £3.3million a year now.
Mohibur Rahman, who was jailed alongside Khan in 2012, is also believed to have been on the programme.
Rahman was released from his first jail term in 2015 but while serving part of his sentence at Belmarsh high security prison in south-east London he became friends with two men with whom he plotted to launch attacks against military targets across the
UK. Rahman is now serving life following his conviction in 2017.
Another participant in the DPP is believed to have been Yahya Rashid, who was jailed for five years in 2015 after trying to travel to Syria to join Islamic State. He was released halfway through his prison term last year.
The 23-year-old, from north London, was sent back to jail this week after police discovered he had been hiding a phone from the authorities – a breach of his licence conditions. Tory candidate Tim Loughton, who sat on the Commons home affairs committee, said: ‘It is important that ministers review how effective this rehabilitation programme is and whether it is value for money.
‘Until we are absolutely convinced some terrorists do not pose a threat to the public, we should err on the side of keeping people safe and keeping them locked up.’
The scheme is compulsory for anyone released from prison for terror-related offences, for those on Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures and for returning fighters and jihadi brides who cannot be prosecuted for lack of evidence.
Dr Paul Stott of the Henry Jackson Society, a security think-tank, said: ‘The murderous terrorist act committed by Usman Khan requires a root and branch re-examination of our counterextremism programmes.
‘Part of that discussion needs to be whether the Desistance and Disengagement Programme for those on licence should be separate from the programmes individuals have started (and presumably passed) while in prison.
‘Continuity and consistency may suggest there is a benefit to uniting the programmes.’
He added: ‘The huge cost currently expended on DPP also makes it imperative it is clear that government interventions towards extremists are properly joined up.’
‘Slaughtered in cold blood’