(CNSNews.com) – Convicted terrorists should “not necessarily” serve their full prison sentences, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Sunday, two days after an Islamic terrorist, released halfway through an earlier jail term for terrorism, stabbed two people in death in central London.
Corbyn hopes to become Britain’s next prime minister after a general election in 11 days’ time.
“Do you think that people convicted of terrorism offenses need to serve a full prison sentence?” a Sky News presenter asked the left-wing opposition leader.
“I think it depends on the circumstances,” replied Corbyn. “It depends on the sentence, but crucially, depends on what they’ve done in prison—”
“So not necessarily then?”
“No, not necessarily. No,” Corbyn continued. “I think there has to be an examination of how our prison services work, and crucially, what happens to them on release from prison.”
Responding to Corbyn’s comments, Home Secretary Priti Patel – whose portfolio covers policing, national security and immigration – tweeted, “Jeremy Corbyn believes that terrorists should not necessarily serve full prison sentences. We believe they should serve every single day of their sentence. Who do you trust to keep you safe?”
Meanwhile Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that around 74 other people had been released early from prison in similar circumstances to the man who stabbed five people – two fatally – before being shot dead by police near London bridge on Friday.
Usman Khan was confronted by members of the public and police officers. Scotland Yard said he had been wearing a “very convincing” looking explosive device which turned out to be fake.
Labour and the ruling Conservatives are blaming each other’s policies for the circumstances that saw the terrorist back on the streets eight years after he was sentenced.
Khan, then aged 19, was convicted in 2012 of terror offenses, including an al-Qaeda-inspired plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange and plans to set up a terrorist training camp on land owned by his family in Kashmir. Eight others were convicted with him, although the judge found that he and two of the remaining act were “more serious jihadis that the others” in the dock.
“In my judgment, these offenders [Khan and two others] would remain, even after a lengthy term of imprisonment, of such a significant risk that the public could not be adequately protected by their being managed on license in the community,” Mr. Justice Wilkie said in sentencing them in February 2012.
As a result of that assessment, Khan was given a so-called IPP (“indeterminate sentence of imprisonment for public protection”) sentence, under which prisoners were to remain incarcerated until they could prove to a parole board that they no longer posed a threat.
Ten months after Khan was sentenced, a Conservative-led government scrapped the IPP regime, amid concerns that it was being abused.
Like others sentenced under IPP before that change, Khan appealed to have his sentence amended to a determinate one, and in 2013 he was successful in getting the sentence changed to 16 years. (In a letter to his lawyer earlier he had expressed a desire to attend a “deradicalization” course, wanting to live his life “as a good Muslim and also a good citizen of Britain.”)
Under laws introduced in 2008 by a then-Labour government, Khan was eligible for release after half of the sentence. He was therefore freed a year ago, with no Parole Board referral and decision required.
Johnson told the BBC on Sunday measures had been taken immediately after Friday’s attack relating to 74 other terrorist offenders who had been released under similar circumstances.
He did not details the steps, but said “I’m sure people can imagine what we’re doing to ensure that 74 other individuals who’ve been let out [of prison] early on the basis of this Labour change to the legislation, they are being properly invigilated to making sure there is no threat to the public. And we took that action immediately.”
“I do think there is an issue, as I’ve said, about automatic early release,” Johnson said. “I think it’s wrong for serious sexual offenders, I think it’s wrong for violent offenders, I think it’s wrong for terrorists.”
Chris Phillips, who formerly headed Britain’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office, a specialist police unit, told BBC radio that releasing convicted terrorists early was akin to “playing Russian roulette.”
“The criminal justice system really needs to get its act together and keep these people locked away,” he said.