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Britain's Boris Johnson vows to end early release of terrorism offenders

“What we want to do is to make sure that people convicted of terrorist offenses are not let out without some process of parole or scrutiny,” Johnson said.
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LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that the automatic early release of convicted terrorism offenders from prison must end after an Islamist attacker recently released from prison injured two people in a stabbing rampage in a busy south London street, before he was shot dead by police.

“What we want to do is to make sure that people convicted of terrorist offenses are not let out without some process of parole or scrutiny by real experts,” Johnson told an event in London on Monday.

Johnson said his government was already bringing forward legislation to stop the system of automatic early release but the difficulty was how to apply this requirement retrospectively to the cohort of prisoners who already qualify for early release.

The prime minister, who had just delivered a speech on Britain’s prospects after it officially left the European Union on Friday, said Justice Secretary Robert Buckland would go into detail about how the government planned to move forward later Monday.

Image: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlines his government's negotiating stance with the European Union after Brexit in London on Monday.POOL / Reuters

"It's time to take action to ensure that, irrespective of the law we’re bringing in, people in the current stream to not qualify automatically for early release," he said.

Johnson's remarks follow a string of terror attacks in the United Kingdom in recent months.

In the latest attack on Sunday, three people were injured in what police called a “terrorist related incident” in south London after a man wearing what turned out to be a hoax device went on a stabbing spree around 2 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET.)

One man in his forties was initially considered to be in a life-threatening condition but that is no longer the case, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D'Orsi of the Metropolitan Police said Sunday. A woman in her fifties was injured but has been discharged from a hospital.

The third person, a woman in her twenties, has minor injuries believed to have been caused by glass following the discharge of a police firearm and was continuing to receive treatment at a hospital Sunday, according to D'Orsi.

The suspect, named by police as 20-year-old Sudesh Amman, was shot dead after armed officers immediately attended the scene as part of a “proactive counterterrorism operation,” she added.

D’Orsi said that the suspect had not yet been formally identified but that the police were “confident” that he was Amman.

Sudesh Amman
Sudesh Amman, the man who is suspected to have gone on a stabbing spree in south London on Feb. 2, before being shot dead by police.Metropolit]an Police / Metropolitan Police

Amman was sentenced to three years and four months in December 2018 for possession and dissemination of terrorist material, but appears to have been released having served less than half of his sentence.

The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility through its Amaq news agency Monday but provided no evidence of its direct involvement or direction of the attack.

Sunday's attack comes months after a former convict charged with terrorism offenses killed two people and wounded three others near the London Bridge in November.

Following that attack Johnson, who was campaigning to become prime minister, called for a new law to ensure terrorism offenders serve the entirety of their sentences. Prisoners in England and Wales are typically released halfway through their prison terms and serve the remainder in the community.

However, the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act, passed in 2019 ended this practice for "convicted terrorists" and it's unclear exactly what additional measure Johnson is proposing.

Last month, two inmates wielding “improvised bladed weapons” attacked and wounded a guard at a high security prison in Cambridgeshire, according to police, who said they were treating the incident as a terrorist attack. The BBC reported that one of the inmates was convicted of preparing an act of terrorism in 2015.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Monday that he was “angry” because both Sunday’s attack and the one near the London Bridge in November were “preventable and foreseeable.”

"The police and the authorities were concerned this man was a danger, which is why, you now know, he was under close surveillance, close surveillance with an armed team," he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.

“But for the brilliance of the medics, but for the speed of the police, we could have been talking about a far, far worse incident yesterday."

Amman’s mother has told Sky News that she believed her son was radicalized online and in prison.

"Before he went to prison, he was not that religious. After he came out, he was really religious,” Haleema Faraz Khan said. "He was watching and listening to things online which brainwashed him.”