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Terrorists face longer behind bars in laws proposed after London Bridge attack

Usman Khan embarked on a killing spree last month after being released from prison on licence halfway through his 16-year term.

Usman Khan killed two people in the recent London Bridge attack after being released from prison early (handout/PA)
Usman Khan killed two people in the recent London Bridge attack after being released from prison early (handout/PA)

By Flora Thompson, PA Home Affairs Correspondent

Terrorists face being locked up for longer under tougher sentencing laws set to be introduced in the wake of the recent London Bridge attack.

The Counter Terrorism (Sentencing and Release) Bill which “will ensure the most serious violent offenders, including terrorists, serve longer in custody” before they are released on licence was among a string of proposed changes to laws announced in the Queen’s Speech.

The decision comes less than a month after convicted terrorist Usman Khan embarked on a killing spree armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest after attending a prisoner rehabilitation programme near London Bridge.

The plan was first mooted shortly after the attack, which claimed the lives of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt.

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Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were killed by Usman Khan in the attack last month (Met Police/PA)

Mr Merritt’s father Dave hit out at Boris Johnson at the time, accusing him of seeing an opportunity to score political points in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Khan, a 28-year-old British national from Staffordshire, had been released from prison on licence in December 2018, halfway through a 16-year prison sentence after he was convicted of terror offences in February 2012.

He was part of an al Qaida-inspired terror group – linked to radical preacher Anjem Choudary – that plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and build a terrorist training camp on land in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir owned by his family.

In the year to the end of September, there were 44 convictions for terrorism offences, with 17 offenders being sent to jail for between four and 10 years, the Government said.

Five were jailed for 10 years or more and one was handed a life sentence.

Around 245 convicted terrorists were freed from jail between 2012 and 2019.

In a bid to give the public “greater confidence” that sentences served by terrorists reflect the severity of their crimes and the “risk they prevent”, the Bill would see the “worst terrorist offenders” serve a minimum of 14 years behind bars.

Early release from jail would be scrapped for those classed as dangerous and handed extended determinate sentences – in which criminals have to spend longer on licence after prison.

The plan also includes a bid to “strengthen” supervision while a terrorist is on licence.

Terrorists determined not to be a risk would have to serve two-thirds of their sentence before the Parole Board could consider them for release.

The Government’s proposals also include the Sentencing Bill, which plans to abolish the automatic halfway release for the most serious offenders who currently receive standard fixed-term sentences, including those jailed for rape, manslaughter and grievous bodily harm.

A Serious Violence Bill will make public bodies duty bound to work together to “identify and tackle early factors” that lead to crime and give police powers to easily stop and search “habitual knife carriers”.

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The Government has also brought back Helen’s Law, named after murder victim Helen McCourt (family handout/PA)

A separate law, the Police Powers and Protection Bill, pledges to establish a Police Covenant to protect officers in their duties and ensure they follow a code of conduct.

The Queen’s Speech also sees the return of Helen’s Law – the Prisoners (Disclosure of Information about Victims Bill).

Named after 22-year-old Helen McCourt who was murdered in 1988 by Ian Simms, the Bill seeks to deny killers parole if they refuse to reveal where they hid their victim’s body.

The Government will also bring back the Domestic Abuse Bill which fell as a result of Mr Johnson’s unlawful suspension of Parliament earlier this year.

PA

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