UK terrorism law watchdog calls for automatic life sentences for attack planners

Extremists convicted of planning terrorist attacks should be given automatic life sentences, an independent watchdog has said.

Friday, 28th May 2021, 10:12 pm
Updated Friday, 28th May 2021, 10:15 pm
Usman Khan who killed Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, in London in 2019.

Jonathan Hall QC, the UK’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, was speaking after an inquest jury concluded a litany of failings contributed to the unlawful killings of Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, by convicted terrorist Usman Khan in London in 2019.

The senior lawyer said it was “quite clear” that Khan, who served eight years in jail for plotting to set up a terror training camp in Pakistan, was not safe for release.

He warned that a similar attack by another released terrorist could not be ruled out and called for better sharing of information, including that held by the Security Service, to assess the risks posed by extremists once released.

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“I think it’s hard to underestimate how serious Usman Khan’s original offence was.

“He wanted to set up a training camp in Pakistan, to train terrorists to come back and kill people in the UK,” Mr Hall told BBC Radio 4’s PM.

“My own view is that people who are convicted of attack planning should be given automatic life sentences and only released, if at all, when safe.”

Mr Hall added: “I think it’s a shame that the law hasn’t gone in that direction.

“Parliament has just changed the law on terrorism sentencing, but they didn’t include that sort of provision.”

He strongly hopes government will improve information sharing on offenders.

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