Boris Johnson says it was a ‘mistake’ to release the London Bridge terrorist from prison as yesterday’s knife rampage turns political.
The Prime Minister, who has vowed to be tougher on violent crime in the Conservative manifesto, said he has ‘long argued’ it is a mistake to let prisoners out of jail early.
He said yesterday before chairing a meeting of the Government’s emergency committee Cobra: ‘It is a mistake to allow serious and violent criminals to come out of prison early and it is very important that we get out of that habit and that we enforce the appropriate sentences for dangerous criminals, especially for terrorists.’
Boris Johnson says it was a ‘mistake’ to release the London Bridge terrorist from prison
Johnson had vowed to end automatic halfway release from prison for serious crimes as an election promise.
He said in the manifesto: ‘We need a fair justice system – one that stands for the law-abiding majority, not the criminal minority, and that gives a second chance to those who have served their time and wish to make a fresh start.’
Usman Khan, 28, was jailed in 2012 for terrorism offences for his part in an al Qaida-inspired terror group
Yesterday’s terrorist, Usman Khan, 28, was jailed in 2012 for terrorism offences for his part in an al Qaeda-inspired terror group that plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and build a terrorist training camp on land in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir owned by his family.
The Stoke-on-Trent-based radical, along with two co-conspirators, originally received an indeterminate sentence for public protection with a minimum of eight years behind bars, meaning he would remain locked up for as long as it was felt necessary to protect the public.
But this sentence was quashed at the Court of Appeal in April 2013 and he was given a determinate 16-year jail term, meaning he would be automatically released after eight years.
But under Johnson’s new pledge, it is likely that Khan would have remained in prison for the full 16 years rather than being granted halfway release.
Jeremy Corbyn and Labour meanwhile have not made the same election promise but said they would recruit 2,000 more police officers than the Tories.
Johnson said more police would be patrolling the streets in the coming days ‘for reassurance purposes’.
Jeremy Corbyn and Labour meanwhile have not made the same election promise but said they would recruit 2,000 more police officers than the Tories
Khan, pictured left, killed a man and a woman before he was shot dead on London Bridge yesterday
In 2013, when sentencing Khan along with two terrorists, the Court of Appeal said indeterminate sentences given to them should be replaced with fixed terms.
Lord Justice Leveson said at the time: ‘There is no doubt that anyone convicted of this type of offence could legitimately be considered dangerous.
‘There is an argument for concluding that anyone convicted of such an offence should be incentivised to demonstrate that he can safely be released; such a decision is then better left to the Parole Board for consideration proximate in time to the date when release becomes possible.’
But the Parole Board said in a statement today: ‘We have every sympathy with those affected by the dreadful events that happened in London Bridge yesterday.
Lord Justice Leveson said the Parole Board was best placed to decide when the terrorists should be released
‘Given the seriousness of this attack, it is understandable that there is speculation about the attacker’s release from prison.
‘The Parole Board can confirm it had no involvement with the release of the individual identified as the attacker, who appears to have been released automatically on licence (as required by law), without ever being referred to the Board.’
Security minister Brandon Lewis refused to say whether the attack showed a ‘failure’ by authorities.
Mr Lewis repeatedly refused to comment on the specifics of the incident, but said that more assessment was needed of the sentences given to violent criminals.
Security minister Brandon Lewis (pictured) refused to say whether the attack showed a ‘failure’ by authorities
‘We take what action we need to do and we believe is right under the advice of the police and look at all of the lessons learned from any case as quickly as we can to ensure people’s safety,’ he told Sky News on Saturday.
When asked how Khan was able to arm himself and launch the attack, Mr Lewis said it would be ‘inappropriate and dangerous’ to speculate on the issue.
He added that although the UK terror threat level had been recently reduced from ‘severe’ to ‘substantial’, there had been ‘no change in the posture and the work’ of police and counter-terrorism forces.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Lewis said: ‘I think it is right that we do have to look again at the sentences, as I say, around these violent crimes.
‘The Prime Minister has argued that, has made that point previously and made it very clearly last night.
‘We will want to move very swiftly because our first priority is the safety of people around the country.’
On funding for the police, Mr Lewis said: ‘Police funding for counter-terrorism policing has consistently increased since 2015. As have counter-terrorism police numbers.’
He added: ‘We will make sure that police has got the resource that it needs.
‘The Metropolitan Police is the best-funded per capita police force in the country and we will continue to ensure they have the resources they need to keep us safe.’