Emergency Legislation

“What we want to do is to make sure that people convicted of terrorist offences are not let out without some process of parole or scrutiny”

Boris Johnson

The current threat for terrorism in the UK is substantial meaning that another terrorist attack is likely within the UK. This has been due to the recent attacks in both Fishmonger Hall and Streatham. Both of these individuals had been known for previous terrorist offences yet they still managed to fulfil another attack. How did this happen and what is the government doing to prevent further attacks in the future?

The UK’s Terrorism Act 2000 describes terrorism as “the use or threat of action designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public, or a section of the public; made for the purpose of advancing a political, a religious, a racial or an ideological cause.” In simple terms, this means using the threat of violence in order to achieve political aims. Before, I have spoken about the tactic of suicide bombing in other states. However, today, I am going to be talking about homegrown terrorism. This is when an individual commits terror offences against their own nation. The reasons behind these attacks are usually the result of radicalisation, experiencing discrimination from the society, or not agreeing with the country’s foreign policies. However, this is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, it can date back to the 5th of November 1605 when Guy Fawkes tried to kill the King, by blowing up the House of Lords. As we all know, he failed. In fact, to this date, they still check the cellar before allowing a debate to occur in the Houses- from what I was told during work experience.

Between 1970 and 2015, the number of fatalities, from terror attacks in the UK, stands at 3,395. Many attacks have happened since then including:

  • June 2016: Labour MP Jo Cox murdered by far-right extremist in Birstall
  • March 2017: Westminster Bridge attack by Khalid Masood- 5 people died
  • May 2017: Manchester Arena attack by Salman Abedi- 22 people killed
  • June 2017: London Bridge attack by three Islamist extremists- 8 people killed
  • June 2017: Finsbury Park Mosque attack- 1 person died
  • September 2017: Parsons Green attack by Ahmed Hassan
  • August 2018: Parliament attack
  • November 2019: Fishmonger Hall attack- 2 people died
  • February 2020: Streatham attack

Now I am going to go into depth about the last two.

On the 29th of November 2019, at Fishmongers’ Hall, Usman Khan was able to stab 5 people, 2 of which died, before being tackled and shot down on London Bridge by armed police. Khan was already on the police’s radar after he was imprisoned in 2012 over a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange. He was given a minimum term of 8 years. In 2013, the Court of Appeal replaced Khan’s sentence with a 16 year fixed term of which half was to be served in prison. He was released in December 2018 with conditions that he had to wear an electronic tag. Less than a year later, he attended a rehabilitation conference in Fishmongers’ Hall where he threatened to detonate a hoax suicide vest. He then started attacking people and was unfortunately successful in killing two of the conference participants, by stabbing them in the chest.

Less than three months later, on the 2nd of February 2020, Sudesh Amman stabbed two people in Streatham. The convicted terrorist went into a shop and took a cheap knife off of the shelf before stabbing a woman in her back and a man that was further up the road. Due to being under covert police investigation, he was shot before causing any more damage. Amman had been sentenced, in late 2018, to three years and four months after he had been sharing extremist views to those close to him. He was then released on the 23rd of January after serving half of his sentence.

In both of these attacks, the offender had been released from prison before going on to commit further terrorist offences. As a result of this, emergency legislation saw it’s first reading on the 11th of February 2020. The title of this new bill was the “Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill.” Unsurprisingly, the bill received overwhelming amounts of support from both houses before it’s royal assent on the 26th of February.

So, what does this new bill mean? As a consequence of the most recent terrorist attacks being undertaken by individuals who were on automatic early release, this new law ensures that the earliest point at which terrorist offenders will be considered for release will be after they have served two thirds of their sentence. After this, they will need to be assessed by the Parole Board. If the Board think that these individuals are no longer a threat to the public, then they will be released.

This new law comes about before 50 terrorists were to be automatically released. It is understood that Mohammed Zahir Khan, a former shopkeeper from Sunderland was due to be released on the 28th of February. He was imprisoned for 4 and a half years in 2018 after he shared messages and material on social media that was supportive of the Islamic State. Another, due to be released, was Mohammed Khilji from north west London who was jailed for 5 years in 2018 after being found guilty of sharing beheading videos on Whatsapp , as well as looking for advice online about how to make a car bomb.

The government was very successful in moving quickly with this new bill due to the fact that they have enforced it before the early release of more terrorists. In addition to this, those within society, who have already been released, will be assessed again. Hopefully, the combination will reduce the threat of terrorism and ensure that the public feels safe again.

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