Terrorism watchdog calls for terror plotters to get automatic life sentences

Jonathan Hall QC, the government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, has told the BBC that he believes terror plotters should be handed automatic life sentences in the wake of the inquest into Usman Khan’s brutal slaying of two Cambridge graduates at Fishmongers’ Hall in 2019.

“I think it’s hard to underestimate how serious Usman Khan’s original offence was” he said. “He wanted to set up a training camp in Pakistan, to train terrorists to come back and kill people in the UK.

“My own view is that people who are convicted of attack planning should be given automatic life sentences and only released, if at all, when safe.”

He decried the lack of legislative action to properly tackle the dangerous extremists, saying: “I think it’s a shame that the law hasn’t gone in that direction. Parliament has just changed the law on terrorism sentencing, but they didn’t include that sort of provision.”

The government did end the farce of automatic early release for terror offenders last February, but have yet to change sentencing guidelines to hit terror plotters with automatic life sentences.

Hall also warned that a similar attack could happen again: “Well, it can happen again. I mean, reoffending by terrorist offenders is extremely rare but you can’t guarantee that they won’t reoffend.

“When terrorist offenders are released, they will live amongst us. And they will be on licence for many, many years. And the authorities will never be able to completely exclude the possibility.”

This website reported in March how 42 terrorist offenders had been released from prison and unleashed on Britain’s streets last year, with 45% of newly caged terrorists due for release within the next four years.

Hall’s tough tone differs somewhat from his predecessor Max Hill, who has since become Director of Public Prosecutions. Speaking in 2018, Hill farcically claimed that it was “fundamentally wrong” to use the phrase “Islamist terrorism”.