Why was London Bridge attacker released from prison?

London Bridge where Khan was brought to a stop by members of the public. Source: Wikimedia Commons

By Lowri Pitcher

On Friday, November 29, 28-year-old Usman Khan killed two and injured three individuals during a terrorist attack near London Bridge, London. After being restrained by members of the public he was shot by the police soon after. 

It very quickly came to light that Khan had previously been convicted for terrorism offences and had been released from prison on licence in December 2018. So, what previous convictions did Khan hold and why was he released after around eight years in prison?

In February 2012, Khan was sentenced to an indeterminate sentence after pleading guilty to a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange, the American embassy and the home of Boris Johnson (then the Mayor of London) and build a terrorist training camp in Kashmir. 

At the time, he could have received a determinate sentence which would have left him eligible for release halfway through; or he could have been given indeterminate Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentence, introduced in 2003, which would have required a review by the parole board before release.  The trial judge claimed that Khan posed a sufficiently long term risk to hand him an indeterminate IPP with a minimum term of eight years. 

In 2013 Khan appealed against his sentence and Chair of the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Leveson, ruled that Khan’s indeterminate sentence should be substituted for an Extended sentence for Public Protection (EPP). This meant that Khan received a fixed 16-year sentence with a further five on licence. However, this meant that Khan would automatically be allowed to leave prison after eight years without the involvement of the parole board. 

At the time Lord Leveson claimed that: “There is an argument for concluding that anyone convicted of such an offence should be incentivised to demonstrate that he can safely be released; such a decision is then better left to the Parole Board for consideration proximate in time to the date when release becomes possible.” However, the parole board later claimed that it had not reviewed Khan’s case before his release. 

In December 2018 Khan was released on licence and was ordered to wear an electronic tag and had restrictions placed upon his movements and travel. 

Khan and other prisoners who have their travel liberties restricted were allowed to attend a Learning Together conference in central London which focussed on prisoner rehabilitation. It was during the afternoon of this event that Khan launched the attack. 

Since 2015, it is mandatory for all terrorism offenders since then to apply for parole before release. 

Investigations about the attack are now underway.

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