Terrorist visit to London ought to have been subject to risk assessment, says head of probation service

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A decision to allow a convicted terrorist to attend a prisoner education event in central London where he killed two Cambridge graduates should not have been the decision of a lone probation officer, an inquest jury has been told.

Probation Service executive director Sonia Flynn said the visit of homegrown jihadist Usman Khan to the Learning Together celebration at Fishmongers’ Hall in November 2019 should have been subject to a risk assessment.

Khan was released as a Category A high-risk detainee in December 2018 after serving eight years in prison for planning a terrorist training camp in his parents’ home country of Pakistan.

 

His attendance at the Nov. 29, 2019, “Learning Together” event was apparently rubber-stamped by parole officer Ken Skelton, who said last week at the inquest into the deaths of Khan’s victims that the decision was made four months before the atrocity in a room full of parole, police and security officials – though there is no indication in the minutes of that meeting that it was given.

Giving evidence at the Guildhall in central London on Monday, Ms Flynn said: “This should have been a multi-agency decision, not one made by a single probation officer.”

It said Mr. Skelton and his junior colleague, Sumeet Johal, were inexperienced in dealing with terrorist offenders and did not have enough time to deal with Khan.

 

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel for the investigating officers, said it may emerge that Mr Skelton informed the Mappa (multi-agency public protection arrangements) meeting in August 2019 of Khan’s intention to travel to London from his home in Stafford, but that the proposal received no objection and no risk assessment was carried out.

Ms. Flynn said, “There should have been an investigation into the risks.

“Was there any evidence that he did not deserve to attend such an event?”

Ms Flynn said the internal review of Khan’s case by the probation service found that Learning Together was seen as a “hope factor” in his life, so a risk assessment would have found no likely reason to prevent Khan from attending.

She added, “I guess we’ll never know.”

Ms. Flynn expressed concern that Mr. Skelton conducted the meetings with Khan at his home rather than in an office, which would have “tested” the 28-year-old.

Investigators previously heard evidence that those working with Khan since his conviction in 2012 had felt “betrayed” by the terrorist.

Ms. Flynn said, “Our staff can be groomed and manipulated and begin to not see the risk of a very dangerous, violent individual in front of them.

 

“Ken Skelton did what he did, but his decision to visit Mr Khan at home on his own – I’m not sure a police officer would have done that.

“Rehabilitation is important. But you can’t lose sight of the individual and what they’re potentially capable of.

 

“One of the cornerstones of probation training is that past behavior is an indicator of future behavior.”

Khan was shot by police on London Bridge, pursued by three men who were at Fishmongers’ Hall at the time.

The investigation into the deaths of Khan’s victims – 25-year-old Jack Merritt and 23-year-old Saskia Jones – is ongoing.

 

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