Who is to blame for freeing Usman Khan?

Who is to blame for freeing Usman Khan? Labour law automatically let London Bridge attacker free but Lord Leveson revised his sentence and Tories presided over his release

  • Usman Khan, 28, was given an indeterminate sentence for terrorism in 2012 
  • But this was quashed by the Court of Appeal who gave him a 16-year jail term  
  • He was released automatically in December 2018 and was still tagged on Friday
  • Boris Johnson said it was a ‘mistake’ to release the terrorist who killed two 
  • Justice Secretary today spoke about government’s review of terror prisoners

MPs are today embroiled in an intensifying political row over which party is to blame for the early release of the London Bridge terror attacker.  

Usman Khan, 28, murdered two young students when he went on a knife rampage in London Bridge on Friday, before he was shot dead by police. 

The convicted terrorist had been free to walk the streets wearing an electronic monitoring tag after being released halfway through his 16-year sentence.

Boris Johnson accused Labour of weakening the law on early release during an interview yesterday, with the Tories saying Jeremy Corbyn – who has boasted of voting against all counter-terror legislation since 1983 – is ‘soft on terrorists’.

But questions are now being asked as to why there were no provisions implemented by the Tories after removing the indeterminate sentences for public protection which would have ensured the Parole Board intervened before Khan’s automatic release. 

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland spoke to today’s Good Morning Britain and insisted Mr Corbyn had a record of ‘making excuses’ for extremists.  

he policy which allowed his release was introduced by Labour’s David Blunkett (left) and targeted at criminals who did not warrant a life sentence but posed a serious risk to the public. But these types of sentences were abolished in 2012 under David Cameron’s Conservative government in a policy introduced by then Justice Secretary Ken Clarke (right)

Boris Johnson (pictured on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show yesterday) has launched a crackdown after 28-year-old convicted terrorist Usman Khan went on a rampage while out of prison on licence last week

Mr Corbyn (pictured in Whitby yesterday) also made a speech on the terrorism threat, saying Western aggression was responsible for fuelling the problems, and convicted terrorists should ‘not necessarily’ serve their full sentences

The Tories said Jeremy Corbyn – who has boasted of voting against all counter-terror legislation since 1983 – was ‘soft on terrorists’

Khan’s second victim was named as former Cambridge University student Saskia Jones (left and right), 23, who had recently applied to join the police

Her fellow Cambridge graduate Jack Merritt (pictured) was a coordinator at the event on Friday 

Usman Khan: How killer who plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange was released

2005: The provisions of the 2003 Criminal Justice Act were introduced.  

It ruled that any prisoners serving a determinate sentence would serve half of their sentence in custody, be released at the halfway point and remain on licence for the other half of the sentence.

For those serving an indeterminate prison sentence, the court would set a minimum term of imprisonment before the offender can become eligible to be considered for parole.

2010: Usman Khan is arrested for his role in plot to kill Boris Johnson and bomb the London Stock Exchange

2012: He is handed an indeterminate sentence, with a minimum of eight years before he can be considered for parole. 

2012: Ken Clarke, as justice secretary under David Cameron, abolishes IPP sentences, but those who were jailed under them can only be freed by a parole board 

2013: Judges, including Justice Leveson, quashed Mr Khan’s indeterminate ruling, instead giving him a determinate sentence with a 16-year term and advising the Parole Board to assess if he can be released. 

2018: Khan is released automatically from prison after serving half of his sentence. The Parole Board is not asked to assess the risk he poses to the public.

November 29, 2019: Still wearing a tag, Khan goes on a knife rampage killing two people before being shot dead by police.  


Khan had been a guest at a prisoner rehabilitation conference in Fishmongers’ Hall in London when he carried out his sickening rampage. 

He had been arrested in 2010 for terrorism offences for his part in an al Qaeda-inspired terror group that plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and kill Boris Johnson.  

In 2012, Khan, along with two co-conspirators, received an indeterminate sentence for public protection with a minimum of eight years behind bars – meaning he could be kept indefinitely if he continued to pose a risk to the public.

In April 2013, Khan appealed against his indeterminate sentence and it was quashed by Lord Justice Leveson at the Court of Appeal. 

He was given a determinate 16-year jail term, meaning he would be automatically released after eight years, half of his sentence.  

Leveson said at the time when reversing the original indeterminate sentence that the Parole Board was best placed to decide when he would be safe to be released from jail.

But the Parole Board released a statement on Saturday saying they played no part at all in Khan’s release because he was freed automatically, suggesting a failure at some point in the Justice System, and ultimately from the Government, to review Khan’s case.

Khan was automatically set free thanks to the Criminal Justice Act – introduced by Labour in 2005 – which releases prisoners halfway through their term, with the rest of their sentence under licence.

Former Tory minister David Gauke was Justice Secretary while Sajid Javid was become Home Secretary, at the time of Khan’s release in December 2018. 

Sentences of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPPs) were introduced in 2005 and given to violent or sexual offenders.

The policy was introduced by Labour’s David Blunkett and was targeted at criminals who did not warrant a life sentence but posed a serious risk to the public.

But these types of sentences were abolished in 2012 under David Cameron’s Conservative government in a policy introduced by then Justice Secretary Ken Clarke – although existing prisoners serving indeterminate sentences would continue to do so.

Hussain and Shahjahan also appealed and the Court of Appeals dropped their indeterminate sentences in 2013.

Labour under Tony Blair dictated that any prisoners serving a determinate sentence would serve half of their sentence in custody before being released on licence, meaning Khan was able to walk free in December last year. 

Usman Khan pictured brandishing an Al Qaeda flag as he shouts through a megaphone. The London Bridge terrorist was also found to have had a picture of Osama Bin Laden on the front of his schoolbag

London Bridge terrorist Khan pictured handing out extreme Islamic leaflets

London Bridge killer Usman Khan is pictured here in 2008 

From left: Usman Khan, Nazam Hussain, Abul Bosher Mohammed Shahjahan and Mohibur Rahman at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in 2010

In April 2013, Khan appealed against his indeterminate sentence and it was quashed by Lord Justice Leveson (left) at the Court of Appeal. Former Tory minister David Gauke (right), meanwhile, was justice secretary at the time of Khan’s release in December 2018 after he served half of a 16-year sentence

The Prime Minister yesterday said it was ‘repulsive’ that someone as dangerous as Khan had served only eight years behind bars after plotting to carry out acts of terrorism.

As he pledged to toughen terror laws, he told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘I think it is ridiculous, I think it is repulsive, that individuals as dangerous as this man should be allowed out after serving only eight years and that’s why we are going to change the law.’

Mr Johnson also tweeted: ‘In 2008 Labour introduced the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. This removed the requirement of Parole Board approval. This meant that, for EPPs after 2008, release would be automatic at the halfway point – no matter how dangerous the criminal.

‘Khan was sentenced under Labour’s old regime. Therefore, he was to be automatically released after serving only half of his sentence. 

‘Those changes meant that although four senior judges considered that Khan was dangerous, he was to be automatically released half-way through because of Labour’s 2008 law. That is why we are determined to change this & ensure dangerous terrorists serve their full sentence.’

But on the same day, the Labour leader blamed Tory budget cuts for ‘missed chances to intervene’.

Jeremy Corbyn hit back as he told an election rally in York that ‘we all pay a price’ for cuts to public services. 

Mr Corbyn’s also told Sky News in an interview broadcast yesterday that he was not against convicted terrorists being released part of the way through their sentence. 

Asked if he believed that people convicted of terrorism offences like Khan needed to serve a full prison sentence, he replied: ‘I think it depends on the circumstances, it depends on the sentence but crucially depends on what they’ve done in prison.’ 

Khan, 28, murdered two people at a prisoner rehabilitation conference less than a year after being released from prison 

Speaking on Good Morning Britain today, the Justice Secretary was asked why Khan was not given a longer sentence. 

He replied: ‘That was the sentencing regime that applied at the time.’

He insisted the Tories have since been ‘toughening up the regime to stop and reduce the automatic early release provisions’. 

Questioned on why it took 10 years to act, he said: ‘We took action after this particular incident to end the use of automatic early release for this type of sentence.’

And when asked if his actions were too late, he said: ‘The particular sentencing regime that was used in this case was indeed one that was passed by a Labour government. 

‘Before this atrocity was committed, I’d already – with the Prime Minister – announced plans to further end automatic early release at half way for a range of serious and violent sentences, so we were ahead of the curve.’ 

Asked why the parole board didn’t do anything about it he said: ‘The parole board had no role because it was an automatic early release provision introduced in 2008.’

Pushed again on why they had no role, he said: ‘We think they should in every case. In this case they didn’t because of the law Labour had introduced.’ 

An Islamist jailed alongside London Bridge killer Usman Khan (left) was dramatically held for allegedly plotting a fresh atrocity. Nazam Hussain (right), 34, was detained just hours after Boris Johnson announced a top-level review into the licence conditions of 74 convicted terrorists who are now out of jail

Left to right: Mohibur Rahman, 35 Jailed for five years in 2012. Behind bars again, 20-year sentence. Gurukanth Desai, 37 Prepared for acts of terrorism. Jailed for 12 years in February 2012. Now free. Abdul Miah, 33 Prepared for acts of terrorism. Jailed for over 16 years in 2012. Now free. Usman khan, 28 London bridge attacker. Mohammad Chowdhury, 29 Key to 2012 plot. Jailed for 14 years, now back in prison. Mohammed Shahjahan, 34 Sentenced to 17 years ten months in 2013. Now free

What is the background to the London Bridge terror attack? 

When was Khan jailed and for how long?

Khan was given an open-ended jail term – known as an ‘imprisonment for public protection’, or IPP – in January 2012 at Woolwich Crown Court after pleading guilty to one count of ‘engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism’. The sentencing judge Mr Justice Wilkie specified a minimum custodial term of eight years. But to secure his freedom, Khan would have to convince the Parole Board that he no longer posed a risk.

What happened then?

In an appeal in March 2013, Khan’s lawyers won their case – and he was given a term with a definitive end point. The need for Khan’s release to be approved by the Parole Board was also dropped. Appeal judges imposed an extended sentence of 21 years which comprised a custodial element of 16 years and a five-year ‘extension period’. The 16-year custodial element meant he was eligible for release at the halfway point – eight years.

Why is only half of a sentence served?

It has been a convention since the 1960s that half of a term is served in prisons. The rest of a sentence is served ‘on licence’, when an offender can be quickly sent back to jail if they fail to behave.

When was Khan finally freed?

The Parole Board was quick to point out after Friday’s attack that Khan’s release was not referred to them – he was automatically released at the halfway point. He remained on ‘extended licence’ and had to report to police and probation officers, wear a GPS electronic tag and fulfil other requirements.

How did laws passed by a former Labour government affect the Court of Appeal’s options?

PM Boris Johnson has said Khan had to be ‘automatically released half-way through’ because of changes Labour made in 2008 to Extended Sentences for Public Protection or EPPs. This is correct.

Until 2008, anyone on an EPP had to have their release approved by the Parole Board. If they were refused, the board could keep them in jail up to the end of their custodial period, which in Khan’s case was 16 years. 

But in mid-2008, Labour made release automatic halfway through.However, the Court of Appeal could potentially have upheld the original IPP sentence.

How can ministers toughen up the sentencing of terrorists?

Khan’s atrocity has reignited debate over whether there is now a case to remove entitlement to early release for convicted terrorists.

PM Boris Johnson has already said they should be made to serve ‘every day’ of their terms. Some important steps have already been taken.

Extended Determinate Sentences (EDS), brought in in 2012, only allow convicted terrorists to apply for parole two-thirds through their sentence, with no automatic entitlement for release.

The Counter Terrorism and Border Security Act, which won Royal Assent in February, toughens jail terms for a range of offences and – crucially –makes it easier to keep terror suspects behind bars beyond the halfway point. It extended two types of sentence – the EDS and Sentences for Offenders of Particular Concern (SOPC) – to a number of middle-ranking terror offences.

A clearer structure could set out underlining principles such as whether early release is allowed, and whether the Parole Board or ministers should approve any release before it takes place rather than it taking place automatically.

A clearer structure would help underline how the justice system should deal with terrorists.


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