Coroner Criticises Home Office, Dept Of Justice, Cambridge University Over Usman Khan Terror Attack
11:53 GMT 03.11.2021 (Updated: 12:20 GMT 01.03.2022)
Convicted terrorist Usman Khan was attending a prisoner rehabilitation workshop near London Bridge in November 2019 when he fatally stabbed two people and injured three others. Khan, who was wearing a fake suicide vest, was then gunned down by police.
The coroner who oversaw an inquest into a terrorist attack at Fishmongers’ Hall in central London has issued a report
in which he criticises a number of institutions, including the Home Office, Department of Justice, probation service and Cambridge University for their failures.
In May this year an inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing on two prisoner rehabilitation workers who were murdered by a convicted terrorist during an event at the Fishmongers’ Hall in London on 29 November 2019.
Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, suffered fatal injuries when Khan, who had strapped two knives to his hands in a toilet cubicle, suddenly launched an attack out of the blue during the informal event hosted by the charity Learning Together, who were based at Cambridge University.
Khan, 28, was the second convicted terrorist to carry out an attack in the capital after being freed from a prison sentence.
On Wednesday, 3 November, the Recorder of London, Judge Mark Lucraft QC, published a Prevention of Future Deaths Report in which he made a number of criticisms and recommendations.
He said there had been “confusion between the various state agencies” over who was supposed to be mentoring Khan after his release from prison.
The coroner told the Home Secretary, Priti Patel: “This case gives rise to concern that mentoring arrangements...could be disrupted suddenly in the case of a person whose risk of re-engaging in extremism was known to be related to social isolation…Measures should be taken to prevent a recurrence of these circumstances.”
The Jones family had also suggested the coroner “recommend a broad review of policies for de-radicalisation measures within the prison estate, including policies for dispersal of terrorist offenders.”
Judge Lucraft wrote: “Although he was moved between prisons many times and repeatedly placed in small, controlled units, he became a prominent figure in Islamist extremist gangs. It is deeply troubling that such an offender can be turned into an extremist gangleader rather than isolated from radicalising influences.”
But he decided “this is not an appropriate subject” to be addressed by him in his report.
Judge Lucraft also suggested police should be given more powers after it emerged that Khan could not legally have been searched ahead of the attack.
He suggested a new condition of being released from prison “requiring them to submit to a search by a police officer without the officer establishing specific legal grounds for the search.”
Addressing Cambridge University, Judge Lucraft wrote: “Significant academic events and courses held outside of university premises should be subject to proper formal risk assessment, especially if they take place in environments with particular risk (such as prisons) and if they are attended by individuals who pose particular risks.”
He added: “It is a matter of concern that focused consideration was not given to the risks of serious offenders being placed in close and continuing contact with young students. Consideration should now be given to such risks and targeted means of mitigating them.”
Khan was born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands and was arrested in 2010 with eight others, all of whom sympathised with al-Qaeda*.
The nine were convicted of plotting to place a pipe bomb in the London Stock Exchange.
Khan was originally given an indeterminate prison sentence under Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) legislation but this was changed to one of 16 years, from which he was freed in 2018 after serving half.
After his release on Christmas Eve 2018 Khan moved into a bail hostel in Stafford, north of Birmingham, and in the summer of 2019 he found his own flat in the town.
He could not get a job and spent most of his time alone in the flat, meeting his family once a week.
Judge Lucraft criticised several aspects of the handling of offenders such as Usman Khan and made a number of recommendations to the Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab.
He wrote: “The facts of this case give rise to concern that probation officers may give insufficient regard to instances of dishonesty in self-presentation by extremist offenders. Consideration should be given to having this aspect of assessment emphasised in training of offender managers.”
Saskia Jones’ family had criticised the Fishmongers’ Company - the owners of the hall where the attack took place but Judge Lucraft also said: "It would not be appropriate to raise any concern in relation to the Fishmongers’ Company" but added their "procedures...for assessing events and putting in place special security measures as they stood in November 2019 left something to be desired."
Judge Lucraft also defended the London Ambulance Service and the Metropolitan Police - who had both been criticised by the Jones family - for their response on the day.
* Al-Qaeda is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other countries.