Monday, 1 Jun 2020

London Bridge terror attack victims were betrayed by a ‘broken’ justice system

As the second victim of Friday’s knife attack was named as 23-year-old Saskia Jones, Boris Johnson admitted that scores of convicted terrorists roaming free in the UK.

There are 74 currently out on licence, as London Bridge killer Usman Khan was, and they are “potentially threatening innocent lives”, experts warned.

Their cases, along with those of more than 500 former prisoners convicted of terror offences and freed since the September 11 attacks in the US in 2001, are currently being urgently reviewed.

Separately, MI5 is already pursuing an all-time record 700 “live investigations” into terror attacks, with at least 80% of these targeting al-Qaeda and Islamic State-inspired fanatics.

It comes amid a row over whether Khan should have been freed mid- sentence, and security chiefs warned of fears of copycat attacks.

Khan, 28, stabbed to death former Cambridge University student Saskia, and Cambridge graduate Jack Merritt, 25, on Friday.

Three others were injured. Two of them are in a stable condition.

Khan was jailed in 2012 for a plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange.

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He was initially given an indeterminate sentence but, a year later, three appeal judges downgraded it to a 16-year fixed term.

This allowed him to be automatically released, without a Parole Board hearing, with an electronic tag, after eight years.

Asked on The Andrew Marr Show how many other terrorists have been released in a similar manner, Mr Johnson said: “There are probably about 74.”

He said they were “being properly invigilated to make sure there is no threat”.

And he blamed Labour for the mid-sentence prison release system.

He said of Khan: “It is repulsive that individuals as dangerous as this man should be allowed out after serving only eight years, and that’s why we are going to change the law.”

“It is legitimate to ask ourselves how could he be out so early? The answer is that he was out because he was on automatic early release.

“When the judges reviewed his sentence in 2012, they had no option but to comply with the law that Labour brought in 2008.”

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But Marr hit back at Mr Johnson, saying: “You say Labour – your party has been in power for 10 years.” But the PM insisted: “I’ve been in office for 120 days.”

Mr Marr responded that the Tories had “nothing in your manifesto” about changing the law.

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Chuka Umunna criticised Labour and the Tories for “seeking to use a terrorist incident as a political football”.

Last night, Jack Merritt’s father, David, blamed swingeing cuts to probation services.

He said: “The problem is with the lack of supervision and rehabilitation post-release, not too- short sentences. Services have been cut to the bone and we are all less safe as a result.”

The prisons’ budget was cut by 20% from 2010/11 to 2014/15. Police and probation services have also been slashed. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said yesterday: “You can’t keep people safe on the cheap.”

Last night, Col Richard Kemp, former security adviser to the government on counter terrorism, told the Mirror: “It is shocking that there are 74 such terrorists out there now, all potentially threatening the lives of innocents.

"Questions also need to be asked about how this was allowed to happen at a time when this country has been facing an unprecedented level of Islamic terrorist threats.”

Sources say there is a possibility of a terror “threat towards polling stations” during the upcoming general election on December 12.

Saskia, a former Cambridge student, was volunteering at the Cambridge University Learning Together prison rehabilitation programme at Fishmongers’ Hall.

Saskia, from Stratford-upon-Avon, had recently applied to join the police force and wanted to specialised in victim support. Her family said she “always wanted to see the best in people”. They added: “Saskia was a funny, kind, positive influence.

“She was intent on living life to the full and had a wonderful thirst for knowledge.”

Jack, from Cambridge, was a Learning Together course co-ordinator. David described his son as a “beautiful spirit”.

The family said: “Jackdied doing what he loved. Jack believed in redemption and rehabilitation, not revenge. Jack was looking forward to building a future with his girlfriend, Leanne, and making a career helping people in the criminal justice system.” Khan was released from jail last year on condition that he obey 20 conditions, including not going to London.

But probation bosses granted him an exemption to go to Learning Together’s conference, as they believed he had reformed. That decision, and the handling of Khan’s case is now subject to a Ministry of Justice Serious Further Offence Review.

Harry Fletcher, ex-head of the probation officers’ union Napo, said Khan was being seen by the probation service twice a week, and had been assessed within four weeks of the attack.

He added: “This time it was decided he was okay to go alone. He was deemed low risk and appears to have completely manipulated the system.”

Last night defence and security expert Bruce Jones told the Daily Mirror:“There will be increased activity in the run-up to Christmas, especially because of the timing of Usman’s attack.”

He added: “The Metropolitan Police and others have already notified the public that after Friday’s attack, there will be an “increased police presence and enhanced patrols.”

“We are facing potential copy cat and retaliatory ‘lone wolf’ attacks which have an extremely low profile and provide no electronic or evidential wake.

“Extremists now meet in open spaces where conversations cannot be monitored, rather than use phones or the internet.

“Previously authorities could identify suspicious profiles of communications, even if they did not immediately know what they related to.

“Lone wolf attacks require almost no planning or preparation. Nearly all operations though have to be preceded by some form of reconnaissance. Much however can now be done from the web.

“Potential attackers will seek “target enriched environments” especially where people feel relaxed, including sports, entertainment and leisure venues.”

A book of condolence will be opened at Guildhall Art Gallery on Monday for people to express their sympathies following the London Bridge terror attack, the City of London Corporation has announced.

A vigil will also be held in Guildhall Yard at 11am to honour the victims, as well as those members of the public and emergency services who risked their lives to help others.

People can lay flowers at Walbrook outside Mansion House.

Lord Mayor of the City of London William Russell said: “We stand united in the face of this appalling attack and will not let terror divide us.”

Additional reporting: Louie Smith and Chris Hughes

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