Jeremy Corbyn has told Sky News that convicted terrorists should “not necessarily” serve their full prison sentences automatically after Boris Johnson said violent offenders “must serve every day of their sentence, with no exceptions”.
The leaders’ comments come in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack, which left two civilians dead.
The attacker, 28-year-old Usman Khan, was a convicted terrorist who was wearing an electronic tag after being released halfway through a 16-year prison sentence for plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange.
Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge, the Labour leader said there were lessons to be learned from the incident and there should be a “full investigation” into the circumstances around the attacker’s prison sentence and subsequent release.
Asked if convicted terrorists should serve their full prison sentences automatically, Mr Corbyn said: “I think it depends on the circumstances and it depends on the sentence but crucially depends on what they’ve done in prison.
“I think there has to be an examination of how our prison services work and crucially what happens to them on release from prison.”
He added: “There has to be an examination of what goes on in the prison, because prisons ought to be a place where people are put away because of major serious offences but also a place where rehabilitation takes place.”
The Labour leader also claimed the probation service had failed to monitor Khan after his release.
His remarks follow the prime minister’s assertion that automatic early release must end and other laws must change to strengthen security – policies that have been inserted into the Conservative manifesto ahead of the general election.
Mr Johnson claimed that because the “broken hung parliament was preoccupied with blocking Brexit”, his government was unable to make the changes required to keep violent offenders and terrorists in jail for longer.
He said: “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.
“Further, for all terrorism and extremist offences the sentence announced by the judge must be the time actually served – these criminals must serve every day of their sentence, with no exceptions.
“These simple changes, in line with what I’ve been saying since becoming prime minister, would have prevented this attack.”
The father of Jack Merritt, the 25-year-old who was killed in Friday’s attack, has urged politicians not to enforce “draconian” sentences.
According to CambridgeshireLive, David Merritt 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.
“R.I.P. Jack: you were a beautiful spirit who always took the side of the underdog.”
Law student Jake Thorold, who knew Jack Merritt from the Learning Together prison rehabilitation programme, accused “shameless” politicians of “attempting to use his death to legitimate draconian sentencing changes”.
He wrote on Twitter: “The awful actions of the perpetrator of Jack’s death should of course not be minimised.
“But when he is pointed to as justification for an evermore uncaring justice system, the values that @JustisTogether have championed should be fought for even harder.”
Khan’s sentence was quashed at the Court of Appeal in April 2013 and he was given a determinate 16-year jail term, with a five-year extended licence period, under legislation which meant he was released automatically halfway through the sentence.
Sentencing law changed in 2012, and if Khan was given the same sentence today, he would have had to serve at least two-thirds and be released only if the Parole Board agreed.
The Parole Board said it had no involvement in his release and that Khan “appears to have been released automatically on licence” halfway through his sentence.
The Ministry of Justice says it will be reviewing the licence conditions of every terrorist offender to make sure they are “as tough as they need to be”.
It adds the review is being undertaken to “guarantee public safety rather than because of any particular concern”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey will be appearing on Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News from 8.30am this morning
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