London Bridge attack: Urgent review of terrorists released from prison

The Midlands flat of terrorist Usman Khan remains a focus for police.

London Bridge killer, Usman Khan, in 2008. Khan had been living in a flat in Stafford prior to Friday's terror attack. Picture: BBC
London Bridge killer, Usman Khan, in 2008. Khan had been living in a flat in Stafford prior to Friday's terror attack. Picture: BBC

An urgent review of terrorists released from prison has been launched in the wake of the London Bridge knife attack by Usman Khan, who was freed halfway through a 16-year jail sentence.

The 28-year-old convicted terrorist stabbed to death 25-year-old Jack Merritt and a woman in the knife rampage on Friday afternoon, leaving three other people injured.

The police cordon which remains in place at the flat in Wolverhampton Road, Stafford. Credit: Steve Leath/Express & Star

Khan, who was living in a flat in Stafford, was on licence and wearing an electronic monitoring tag when he attended a conference on prisoner rehabilitation hosted by Cambridge University scheme Learning Together at Fishmongers' Hall near London Bridge.

The attack has prompted the Ministry of Justice to review the licence conditions of every convicted terrorist released from prison, which is understood to be around 70 people.

Review planned into licence conditions for freed terrorists

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that scrapping early release from prison would have stopped Khan.

Mr Johnson said: "What I have seen over the last 24 hours has made me angry - it's absolutely clear that we can't carry on with the failed approaches of the past."

Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick (left), Home Secretary, Priti Patel, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Commissioner of the City of London Police, Ian Dyson (right) attend the London Bridge crime scene. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

He added: "If you are convicted of a serious terrorist offence, there should be a mandatory minimum sentence of 14 years - and some should never be released.

"Further, for all terrorism and extremist offences the sentence announced by the judge must be the time actually served - these criminals must serve every day of their sentence, with no exceptions.

"These simple changes, in line with what I've been saying since becoming Prime Minister, would have prevented this attack."

Midlands flat central to police probe

Police continued to cordon off a flat in Stafford where Khan has been living in the weeks prior to Friday's terror attack.

Scores of detectives and a forensics team had been searching a flat in the three-storey block in Wolverhampton Road, close to Stafford town centre.

The forensic search team arrive at the flat in Wolverhampton Road, Stafford, yesterday. Credit: Jacob King/PA Wire

It is believed the converted building had been taped off by officers since late on Friday night.

And as day broke yesterday more officers, co-ordinated by the Metropolitan Police, arrived at the flat, close to the Star and Garter pub.

The search continues ion the garden area of the Stafford property. Credit: Jacob King/PA Wire

Large blue tents were erected outside the front of the property, with reports that officers were entering the top floor flat.

The garden area also appears to be part of the search.

It is understood Khan had been living at the flat for around six months.

Interactive map showing location of flat

Staffordshire County Council leader, Councillor Philip Atkins, said people living in Stafford would want to know how Khan came to be living in the area.

He said: "Stafford is a county town like many others and is home to thousands of people who peacefully live alongside one another.

“Understandably, residents will want to know more about this person’s immediate past here, but they will also know that Stafford and Staffordshire are safe, tolerant and peaceful places.”

The blue tents and tape blocking the entrance to the block of flats in Stafford. Credit: Steve Leath/Express & Star

Elaine Bramley, aged 53, who lives close to the flat in Wolverhampton Road, said she was “shocked and speechless” to hear about the attack, and Khan’s possible link to Stafford.

“I absolutely love this area, it’s so friendly. But unfortunately there’s always that percentage," she said.

It is believed residents inside the building have been moved to emergency accommodation while the investigation is ongoing.

Terrorist part of group linked to radical preacher Anjem Choudary

Khan was given permission to travel into the heart of London by police and the probation service.

He had also been allowed to travel to Whitehall earlier in the year.

Armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest, Khan was tackled by members of the public, including ex-offenders from the conference, before he was shot dead by police on London Bridge.

The scene on London Bridge in central London. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Footage posted online shows Khan being taken to the ground as one man sprays him with a fire extinguisher and another, reportedly a Polish man who worked at the Hall, lunges towards him with a narwhal tusk believed to have been taken from the wall inside the building.

Khan was part of an al Qaida-inspired terror group - linked to radical preacher Anjem Choudary - that plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and build a terrorist training camp on land in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir owned by his family.

A list of other potential targets included the names and addresses of the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in London, then London mayor Mr Johnson, two rabbis, and the American Embassy in London.

Usman Khan aged 20

In February 2012, Khan, who had been based in Stoke-on-Trent, was handed an indeterminate sentence for public protection, with a minimum term of eight years - meaning he could have been kept in prison for as long he was deemed to be a threat to the public.

The sentence was quashed at the Court of Appeal in April 2013 and he was given a determinate 16-year jail term, with a five-year extended licence period, under legislation which meant he was released automatically halfway through the sentence.

But sentencing law changed later in 2012, and if Khan was given the same sentence today, he would have had to serve at least two thirds and be released only if the Parole Board agreed.

Despite the law change coming into force before Khan's appeal, he could only be sentenced under legislation in force when he committed his offences.

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The UK head of counter-terrorism policing, Neil Basu, said he believed Khan had complied with an "extensive list of licence conditions" following his early release.

The Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying Khan was one of its fighters, but did not provide any evidence.

Police remained at the scene in Stafford overnight. Credit: Steve Leath/Express & Star

No-one else is being sought over the attack.

Mr Merritt's father David called his son a "beautiful spirit who always took the side of the underdog".

Writing on Twitter Mr Merritt said: "He was an exceptional young man, and I'm only finding out the half of it now he's gone."

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