Almost 100 terror offenders being considered for release from British prisons

Almost 100 terror offenders being considered for release from British prisons
Parole Board says public protection is its ‘top priority’ as expert panels consider whether to free inmates

Almost 100 terror offenders are being considered for release from prison, including attack plotters and a neo-Nazi who made a pipe bomb.

The Parole Board is currently reviewing 92 cases referred by the justice secretary, after the government changed the law to stop terrorists being automatically freed.

Knife attacks in Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham were carried out by released prisoners who were under probation monitoring, while two Isis-supporting inmates launched a terror attack inside the high-security Whitemoor prison last year.

A total of 218 people are currently in prison for terrorism-connected offences, including 71 per cent categorised as holding Islamist extremist views, and 22 per cent extreme right-wing.

In the past year, 60 terrorist prisoners were released from custody, bringing the total to 443 since July 2013.

Some have been jailed again for breaking their licence conditions or committing new offences, while attackers Usman Khan and Sudesh Amman were shot dead by armed police.

A string of cases have renewed concerns about terrorist networking and radicalisation inside jails, and experts fear that more attacks will be launched by freed inmates.

Ian Acheson, a former prison governor who carried out a government-commissioned review of Islamist extremism in prisons, previously told The Independent: “There are good people doing their best to make sure that another outrage won’t happen, but being good isn’t the same as doing well. Another Khan is in the pipeline.”

Following the spate of incidents, ministers introduced a law preventing the automatic release of terror offenders at the halfway point of their sentences.

The Parole Board must now deem them safe before they can be freed, at the two-thirds point at the earliest.

Since the law was changed, 117 terror cases have been referred to the body. So far, 11 of those have been released and 14 were refused and kept inside.

The Parole Board expects that only around 25 of the 92 cases currently under consideration will be decided next year, because of the time taken for evidence-gathering and oral hearings.

The PA news agency reported that those being considered including Nazam Hussain, who was originally jailed alongside Usman Khan for planning a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

UK terror threat is ‘very real’, counter-terrorism officer says following Streatham inquest

Hussain had his sentence reduced on appeal and was freed, but was recalled to prison following Khan’s deadly attack in November 2019.

Also being considered for release is Jack Coulson, a young neo-Nazi who made a pipe bomb and downloaded terrorist material. Both could have their bids for freedom determined in February.

Rangzieb Ahmed, who was once alleged to be the highest-ranking al-Qaeda operative in the UK, is anticipated to have his case ruled upon in March.

He became the first person to be convicted in the UK of directing a terrorist organisation after heading up a cell that aspired to commit attacks. Ahmed was jailed for life with a minimum term of 10 years in 2008.

A decision is also expected in March on whether Jawad Akbar, one of five terrorists who plotted to bomb the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent and the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London in 2004, can be released.

Isis recruiter Abdalraouf Abdallah, who was visited in prison by Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi but has denied any involvement in the attack, is likely to be reconsidered for release in the first half of 2022, as is Aras Hamid who tried to leave the UK to join Isis.

The Parole Board said it had a team of specially trained panel members to deal with terror cases, including former judges, chief constables, prison governors, prosecutors and psychologists and psychiatrists.

Abdalraouf Abdallah appearing before the Manchester Arena public inquiry on 20 October

“They require top-level security clearance to ensure effective information sharing between the board, security services, counter-terror police and probation to equip the board with all evidence relating to the risk posed by an offender,” a spokesperson added.

“Terrorism Act cases make up a tiny proportion of the board’s caseload – equating to less than 100 of the roughly 16,000 cases dealt with each year.

“However, due to the critical public protection nature of these cases we are in the process of adding to our specialist Terrorism Act cohort with even more expertise in the area, and hope to have around 70 members handling such cases by early next year.”

The Parole Board said public protection was its top priority, and that any released terror offender would be subject to strict licence conditions governing where they live, travel and work, who they can associate with, and restrictions on internet use and devices.

They are monitored under the multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) scheme, which involves multiple authorities, and was reviewed after failings concerning the Fishmongers’ Hall attacker.

The inquests into his victims’ deaths found flaws in information sharing between authorities that meant the risk Khan presented was under-estimated.

A separate inquest found that the Streatham terror attack, which struck months later, could have been prevented after the perpetrator stated his violent wishes inside prison while associating with high-profile terrorists.

The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, is currently undertaking a review of terror offences committed inside Britain’s jails.

The Ministry of Justice previously introduced separation centres for the most influential extremist inmates, but their full capacity has not been used.

Since 2017, there have also been changes to improve information sharing between prisons, police and the security services over activity inside jails.

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