Anti-terror panel considered closing Hassan case days before Parsons Green blast
The Home Office disclosed that there were a total of nine formal Channel panel discussions about Ahmed Hassan between June 2016 and September 2017.
An official anti-terror programme was considering closing its case on the Parsons Green bomber 10 days before the attack, it has emerged.
Ahmed Hassan was discussed by a multi-agency panel set up to assess his risk of being drawn into terrorism less than a fortnight before he planted a bomb on a Tube train.
Authorities faced questions after it emerged the attacker had come to the attention of a host of bodies and had been on the radar of Channel, an arm of the Government’s Prevent scheme.
Following internal reviews by police and the local council, the Home Office disclosed on Monday that there were a total of nine formal Channel panel discussions about Hassan between June 2016 and September 2017.
The final Channel panel took place on September 5 2017.
Hassan’s explosive device partially exploded on a District line train, injuring 51 people, on September 15.
A letter from Home Office Permanent Secretary Sir Philip Rutnam to Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: “Considering the ongoing vulnerability assessment and intelligence update, the Channel Panel was in the process of considering closure of AH’s case.”
Following his arrival in Britain in 2015, Hassan, an Iraqi asylum seeker, told Home Office officials he had been trained to kill by Islamic State, his trial at the Old Bailey heard.
Police concluded that Hassan was suitable for Prevent support, and the first formal Channel panel took place in June 2016.
Consent for the teenager to take part in the Channel process was given by Surrey County Council.
According to Sir Philip’s letter, police Channel practitioners spoke with Hassan on two occasions, in August and November 2016.
The Channel Panel were unable to establish a holistic overview taking into account the entirety of AH’s turbulent background, mental health concerns, and ongoing behaviour and remarks Home Office Permanent Secretary Sir Philip Rutnam
These meetings did not raise any additional concerns about Hassan’s risk of becoming involved in terrorism, although concerns were raised about his “demeanour and behaviour” by a Channel panel member in January 2017.
Sir Philip said there was an apparent lack of a formal, documented plan to manage and mitigate Hassan’s vulnerabilities and associated risks.
He added: “AH’s positive progress at college was the main focus of the Channel Panel, and was considered a significant protective factor.
“Other concerning events and behaviour involving AH (such as AH going missing from home, and ongoing mental health issues) in some instances were not clearly shared or picked up on by the wider Channel Panel members for further exploration, challenge or intervention.
“There was a consensus that the case should remain in Channel. However, no violent ideology was confirmed.
“The Channel Panel were unable to establish a holistic overview taking into account the entirety of AH’s turbulent background, mental health concerns, and ongoing behaviour and remarks.”
Ms Cooper said: “This account sets out a series of failings in the operation of the Channel programme in the case of Ahmed Hassan.
“It is crucial that the Channel programme works effectively to deal with individuals who could pose a serious risk to public safety or national security.”
The Labour MP added that the committee will pursue with ministers why there were problems in the case and what further action is needed.
Security minister Ben Wallace said “swift action” has been taken to address the issues raised.
We should not allow this case to undermine all the good work taking place across the country to stop terrorism and our work to help those who are legitimately in need Ben Wallace, security minister
He said: “The Home Office and partner organisations have accepted the majority of the recommendations and following this case we had already put in place processes to ensure better communication between immigration and Prevent partners, as well as reviewing how Channel procedures are monitored.
“We should not allow this case to undermine all the good work taking place across the country to stop terrorism and our work to help those who are legitimately in need.
“Through Channel, 332 individuals were supported in 2016/17 with interventions to divert them away from radicalisation.”
Surrey County Council said it was a “difficult case in tough circumstances”.
A spokesman for the authority said: “Our work with other agencies in this case wasn’t as good as it should have been and we’re sorry for our part in that.
“We knew before the terrible incident at Parsons Green that we needed to make changes and had already begun to do so.
“Since then we have made further improvements and continue to focus on ensuring our work in this area is as good as it can be. Our thoughts remain with everyone affected.”
Hassan, now 19, was convicted of attempted murder and jailed for life with a minimum term of 34 years in March.
Prevent, which has an annual budget of around £40 million, has repeatedly attracted controversy.
But ministers and police insist it is a crucial plank of counter-terror efforts, and earlier this month Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he supports the scheme “absolutely”.