Here's an article from the Guardian pointing out how important it is to be able to supervise people properly having been released from prison on licence. So it's clearly such a shame the government still refuses to acknowledge the ongoing probation omnishambles created so ably by Chris Grayling.
Police and security services face a surge in the number of convicted terrorists released from prison, Guardian analysis has shown, prompting warnings over the unique threats posed by extremists back on the streets. More than 40% of the sentences for terrorism offences handed down over a 10-year period will have been served by the end of the year, figures compiled by the Sentencing Council show.
More than 80 of the 193 terms issued for terrorism offences between 2007 and 2016 will run out by the end of this year. However, the number of individuals released could be much higher as prisoners are eligible for release halfway through their sentence. Among those eligible for parole in 2018 is the Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary, who was jailed in September 2016 for five and a half years after already spending five months on remand in custody.
The analysis comes as the home secretary is set to unveil the government’s updated counter-terrorism strategy, as officials warn Britain faces a severe threat from Islamist terrorism for at least another two years.
Sajid Javid will present the renewed Contest strategy on Monday with a speech in central London, a day after the first anniversary of the London Bridge terror attack, in which three men killed eight people and injured nearly 50 with a rental van and knives. The assailants were shot dead at the scene.
Richard Walton, who was head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command for five years from 2011 to 2016, said convicted terrorists released back into the community were a “worrying risk pool” for police and MI5 and place a burden on the authorities.
He said: “Terrorist prisoners released on licence place a resource burden on both specialist counter-terrorism detectives and on mainstream policing. A risk-management process is used to monitor those released on licence and the monitoring of high-risk offenders is extremely resource intensive. In essence, however, former convicted terrorist offenders are a worrying risk pool for MI5 and counter-terrorist policing. Intelligence is often insufficient to gauge whether they have any intent to reoffend owing to their recent incarceration. Those intending to reoffend also often ‘lay low’ for a period as they know that there will be close attention on them after release.”
The Guardian analysed figures related to the number of offenders by median average sentence. The data excludes those offenders given life and indeterminate sentences. Of the 90 sentences handed down for the preparation of terrorist acts – effectively attack planning – in the decade to 2016, almost a third will have been spent by the end of this year. A further 23 will be spent in 2019.
All the terms given to people sentenced for funding terrorism, failing to disclose information about acts of terrorism, or found to be in possession of terrorist information, will be spent the end of 2018. There is a dedicated specialist prisons unit within the national counter-terrorist policing infrastructure, with dedicated specialist detectives working with the prisons and probation service.
Ian Lawrence, general secretary of Napo, the probation union, said the service is already stretched. “Our members are overworked and understaffed, resulting in enormous pressures on them to do an extremely challenging job,” he said. “We must properly resource our probation services and bring them back in public ownership if we are to ensure a high-quality service with public protection at its heart.”
A Home Office programme under the Prevent banner has also been developed for individuals who are already engaging in terrorism to disengage and reintegrate safely back into society. The desistance and disengagement programme focuses on those who have already engaged in terrorist-related activity. This can mean people in prison, or recently released from prison, for terrorist-related offences, as well as people who have returned from Syria or Iraq.
The Ministry of Justice previously said it judges about 700 prisoners to be a risk due to their extremist views. It is understood the 700 figure was an overall estimate of all inmates linked to any form of extremism, including Islamist or far-right ideologies. Other prisoners held for non-terrorism offences but deemed to be an extremism risk were also counted in the 700 figure.
Ian Acheson published a review in 2016 into Islamic extremism in prisons, which he found to be a growing problem. In the review, he said more terrorism offenders are being held outside the high-security jails and are proceeding through the offender management system towards release into the community. “Such prisoners extend the threat of radicalisation beyond those arrested for terrorist offences,” he said. “Other prisoners – both Muslim and non-Muslim – serving sentences for crimes unrelated to terrorism are nevertheless vulnerable to radicalisation by Islamist extremists.”
Khalid Masood, the Westminster attacker, is among the extremists believed to have been radicalised in prison. Masood, 52, drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing five of them. He then stormed the Palace of Westminster and stabbed a police officer to death. He was shot and died at the scene.
Rajan Basra, a research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), said: “One of the greatest dangers is of inmates leaving prison and re-engaging in extremism networks and plotting attacks. Their beliefs may have hardened, they can bear a grudge against the authorities, and they may have ‘networked’ with other inmates – whether extremist or ‘regular’ criminals. Their release could also energise extremist networks; prison is often a source of respect.”
Basra pointed to examples throughout Europe of former inmates actively plotting or carrying out terrorist attacks, such as Omar el-Hussein, who was behind fatal shootings in Copenhagen in Denmark, and the attacker of the Jewish museum in Brussels, Mehdi Nemmouche, who was radicalised in a French prison and fled to Syria upon his release.
“Another challenge is one of post-release arrangements,” Basra said. “Authorities often don’t have the resources to comprehensively monitor all Tact [terrorism act] inmates post-release, and probation officers often suspect that extremists simply lie low until their licence conditions expire.”
Security agencies and counter-terror policing have foiled 12 Islamist and four extreme rightwing plots since March last year. MI5 and police are running more than 500 live operations involving roughly 3,000 “subjects of interest” at any one time. In addition, there are in excess of 20,000 people who have previously been investigated and who could again pose a threat.
A counter-terrorism policing spokeswoman said: “UK police and intelligence community are working tirelessly and at pace to confront the terrorist threat and help keep the public safe. “This includes monitoring and assessing existing and emerging threats and risks, including the release of convicted terrorists, and putting in place actions to mitigate them through a range of operations and activities.”