Terrorist offenders are being freed to live in London without local police commanders being told they are there, the government’s terror watchdog warned today in a new report which exposes serious flaws in the handling of convicted extremists.
Jonathan Hall QC said the failure to disclose the identity of the released convicts was surprising and was occurring even though local officers “ought to be well placed to spot odd behaviour and feed relevant information back to counter-terrorism police.”
He says that not only should the terrorists’ presence in the area be passed on but that it should also be shared with “vetted organisations providing security to places of worship” such as synagogues and mosques so that they “look out for particular individuals or registration plates” and raise the alarm when necessary.
“Borough Commanders in London, in charge of neighbourhood policing, were not always aware of the identity of Terrorist Offenders on licence in their area,” Mr Hall states, adding that he does not know “whether this is a result of information not being circulated adequately, not easily accessible, or for some other reason” even though convictions are a matter of public record.
Mr Hall’s call for action to plug this gag comes in a report to ministers commissioned in the wake of the Fishmongers’ Hall attack in November 2019 by the freed terrorist convict Usman Khan in which two people, Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25, were killed and three others wounded.
It also highlights a series of other flaws including the failure to prosecute terrorist inmates for further crimes committed inside prison which could have kept them behind bars for longer and prevented them posing a risk to the public outside.
Mr Hall, the independent review of terrorism legislation, says that the crimes overlooked have included the possession of homemade weapons and glorifying terrorism and that urges greater efforts to take more such cases to court in future.
“There is a particular need to ensure that disruptive opportunities based on conduct in prison are not lost” his report states.
“Potential offences committed by Terrorist Risk Offenders in prison were not being investigated as criminal offences. For example, the finding of weapons, radicalisation involving potential offences under the Terrorism Act 2006, and the finding of phones.”
His report also suggests that a new stop and search power which would give police the ability to search for fake suicide belts, as worn by Usman Khan, could further improve public security.
A separate recommendation is for licence conditions to be tightened so that a person who makes repeated trips to shops selling knives can be recalled to prison because of the indication that they retain violent intent.
This proposal is prompted by the Streatham attack carried out by another freed terrorist, Sudesh Amman, in February last year shortly when he tried to go on a stabbing rampage after stealing a knife on display in a shop he had visited previously.