Nation special report
LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out tougher rules for terror convicts after a man released early from a jail term for terrorism offences injured two people in a stabbing spree in south London.
Ministers are aiming to pass emergency legislation to block the automatic early release of convicted terror offenders before the next one is due to be freed in three weeks’ time.
An official said legislation would be introduced to the Commons on Tuesday. It follows attacks in recent months by men convicted of terror offences. “We will announce further plans for fundamental changes to the system for dealing with those convicted of terrorism offences,” Boris Johnson said.
It is learnt that British politicians have repeatedly called for tougher rules for terror suspects, calls that increased after a former convict killed two people and wounded three more before police shot him dead near London Bridge in November 2019.
Boris Johnson said that since that attack (Sudesh Amman), the government had “moved quickly to introduce a package of measures to strengthen every element of our response to terrorism including longer prison sentences and more money for the police”.
Sunday’s attacker, Amman, had been jailed for promoting violent material and had even encouraged his girlfriend to behead her parents. He was under surveillance at the time of the attack.
In November 2018, he pleaded guilty to possession of terrorist documents and disseminating terrorist publications, and the following month he was sentenced to more than three years in prison.
He was 17 and living at home with his mother and younger siblings when he first began committing terrorism offences, according to authorities. Police became aware of his activities in April 2018 and he was arrested by armed officers in a north London street a month later.
Ministers have admitted they are likely to face a legal challenge over the plans and an ex-independent reviewer of terror legislation, Lord Carlile, said blocking early release “may be in breach of the law”. But Justice Secretary Robert Buckland maintained the government was taking the right action, adding: “This is about public protection – it’s the first job of government to get that right.”
The government is aiming for its law change to clear the Commons by the time MPs rises for recess on 20 February and pass through the House of Lords over the following seven days.
The measures are being introduced after three recent incidents involving men who had been convicted of terror offences.
On Sunday, Sudesh Amman, 20, stabbed two people on Streatham High Road, south London, before he was shot dead by police. He had been released from jail 10 days earlier, having served half of his sentence, and was under police surveillance.
Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said on Streatham incident that on Sunday an often invisible part of our policing response – our surveillance officers – calmly ran forward to stop a vicious knife attack in the middle of a busy high street in Streatham.
My thoughts – and those of all of my policing colleagues – are with those directly impacted by this incident, and we wish all affected a speedy recovery.
I am in no doubt that the quick reactions of our covert officers prevented many more people from being injured, and they exemplified the courage and sense of duty that our officers have shown time and time again in their efforts to protect the public from the terrorist threat.
And that threat is, despite our best efforts, not diminishing. This is the third attack we have responded to in about as many months – with Sunday’s attack following the recent incidents at Fishmongers’ Hall and Whitemoor prison.
The covert nature of our police surveillance of terror suspects is a significant and important way we respond to that threat. Our officers are highly trained, hugely professional and whilst they normally have to operate out of sight, they know that when the public is threatened it is their role to step forward.