Boris Johnson is facing a backlash for making “political capital” from the London Bridge attack after he blamed the release of Usman Khan on Labour.
The Prime Minister was accused of “misleading” people about the law surrounding early release after it was revealed the terrorist who murdered two innocent people while wearing a fake suicide vest – before being shot dead by police – had been jailed for plotting terror attacks.
Visiting the site of Friday’s stabbings, the Prime Minister rushed out plans to end early release for terrorists with “no exceptions” – and keep the most dangerous behind bars for life.
In hotly disputed comments Mr Johnson said that Mr Khan’s release was due to laws passed by Labour .
He said: “The terrorist who attacked yesterday was sentenced 11 years ago under laws passed in 2008 which established automatic early release.
“This system has got to end – I repeat, this has got to end, as I’ve been saying for four months. 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.
Mr Johnson argued his proposed changes “would have prevented this attack”.
And he used a strongly-worded article in the Mail on Sunday urging the public “give me a majority and I’ll keep you safe from terror.”
But the Prime Minister has been accused of misleading the public and politicising the attack because the changes would not have applied in this case.
Khan was sentenced to indeterminate detention for “public protection” with a minimum jail term of eight years, but which would have allowed him to be kept in prison beyond that time, after being convicted for involvement in a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange.
But in 2013, the Court of Appeal quashed the sentence, replacing it with a 16-year-fixed term of which Khan should serve half in prison.
He was released automatically on licence in December 2018 without the involvement of the parole board.
Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Ed Davey told Sky’s Sophy Ridge: “We shouldn’t be making in the middle of our election political capital out of a tragedy and he’s doing that and he’s doing that in a way which is misleading people about what the law actually says.
He added: “I believe the Prime Minister has been misleading people again on television last night.
“He said that you get early release after 50% of the term – that’s not true.
“So either he’s incompetent and doesn’t know the law or he’s deliberately misleading people when we’ve got a tragedy on our hands and I’m afraid either way it does not look good for the Prime Minister and he should be apologising.
His Lib Dem colleague Chuka Ummuna said it was “unedifying” to look at the two main parties making “political capital” out of the attack.
Among those killed in the carnage of the London Bridge attack was law and criminology course leader Jack Merritt.
His father David said: “My son, Jack, who was killed in this attack, would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences or for detaining people unnecessarily.”
Asked whether politicians should listen to the victim’s father, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sophy Ridge: “Totally and no-one wants to see the politicisation of this.”
He added: “I don’t think after what we’ve seen both in this election and in the previous election in the individuals involved that anyone would think taking the measures necessary to protect the public and putting their interests and their safety at the forefront, and as the over-riding priority, would be somehow politicisation.
“I think it’s the necessary thing to do to keep people safe and it is only this Prime Minister and the Conservatives who are offering that.”
Khan and two others were originally given indeterminate sentences with a minimum term of eight years behind bars instead of a fixed term.
Khan, along with Nazam Hussain and Mohammed Shahjahan, appealed against their sentences and had the indeterminate sentences dropped by the Court of Appeal in 2013.
Mr Justice Leveson found the original decision had “wrongly characterised” the three men as more dangerous than the other defendants.
Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti told the BBC’s Andrew Marr warned about the danger of a “knee-jerk” reaction.
She said: “It’s very unedifying to be talking about knee jerk legislation and throwing away the key.”
She warned that “legislation on the hoof particularly after a terrorist attack is rarely good legislation”.
“No political party can offer you an entirely risk-free society.”
Grilled on the same programme Boris Johnson refused to apologise for Khan’s release despite it happening under a Tory government.
The Tory leader was repeatedly asked about his bid to shift the blame to Labour by BBC host Andrew Marr – who told him: “For 10 years you have done nothing about it!”
The Prime Minister said an appeal judge had “no option but to comply” with a law enacted under Labour in 2008 allowing automatic early release.
And he said the government had been “taking a lot of action in the last 48 hours” to review 74 other people in similar circumstances to Khan released on licence from jail.
Mr Johnson said Khan had mentors and restrictions on his mobile phone and internet access – and insisted he was a new Prime Minister making changes.
But Mr Marr said the Tories had been in power for a decade saying: “As a government you’ve patently failed.”
Meanwhile Former chief crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal said he repeatedly warned Mr Johnson of the risk posed by convicted terrorists being released from prison while still radicalised.
Mr Afzal said: “He asked me what keeps me awake at night and I told him it was this issue.
“When he wanted to know what to do about it, I told him it was more resources for one-to-one de-radicalisation.
“Back then, he hadn’t found the ‘money tree’ so he frustratingly said there was no money.”
A Sentencing Bill included in the Queen’s Speech in October, which became defunct once the election was called, would have changed the automatic release point from halfway to two thirds for adult offenders serving sentences of four years or more for serious violence or sexual offences.
Judges can already impose extended sentences for offenders assessed as “dangerous”, where they will serve two thirds, but the proposed legislation would make the longer jail terms mandatory for certain offences.