The findings of the Independent Office for Police Conduct are behind national recommendations now being made to improve police management of terrorism offenders
Two investigations were carried out after the terrorist attack carried out by Staffordshire-born Usman Khan at Fishmongers' Hall, in London in November 2019.
Training for officers on types of terrorism offenders they are managing and the different risks that they may pose has been under development and is expected to start soon. It was one of several IOPC national learning recommendations made early during the investigations and accepted by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) in March this year.
The IOPC began their investigations after Khan, from Stafford, attacked and killed Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, at a Learning Together prisoner rehabilitation course at Fishmongers' Hall on November 29, 2019. On May 28, the inquest into Jack and Saskia's deaths concluded they were unlawfully killed.
An inquest into the fatal shooting of Khan by police on London Bridge ended on Thursday when the jury concluded he was lawfully killed.
One of the IOPC's investigations focused on the actions of Staffordshire Police officers from the Prevent team, who were tasked with monitoring the activities of Khan. The investigation found these officers were not sufficiently trained to manage this level of risk, as the role of Prevent team officers is primarily to safeguard and protect vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism in the first place and work alongside stakeholders and communities to build resilience to extremist narratives.
The second investigation looked at the killing of Khan by firearms officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and City of London Police (COLP) who Tasered and shot Khan after he was chased on to London Bridge by members of the public. Twenty shots were fired by six officers. Khan was later found to have been wearing a fake suicide jacket.
In March 2020, before the IOPC's investigations had concluded, they made four early learning recommendations to the national policing lead for counter-terrorism at the NPCC relating to the management of offenders released from prison following terrorism offences.
It included that police forces should develop appropriate systems to support the effective management of convicted terrorist offenders at a regional and national level and between agencies; that suitable policies and procedures should be in place distinguishing between the different types of terrorist offenders and cover what the precise role and responsibility of the police force is, in relation to each type of offender; and that police officers should be specifically trained for the types of offenders that they are managing and the different risks that they may pose.
A further recommendation said that police forces should ensure that convicted terrorist offenders are not given mobile devices that have access to the internet, if they are not allowed access to the internet.
Following the investigation, College of Policing national training and guidance has also been updated on the circumstances in which armed officers require authorisation to fire ‘critical shots’ at suspects. A critical shot is a shot to someone’s head which can be self-authorised by an officer if, for example, the person is wearing a suicide vest, as was believed to be the case. Here, the officers requested authorisation from the control room but this was not necessary.
'Lessons need to be learned'
Regional director for London, Sal Naseem, said: “Eighteen months on, our thoughts remain with the families and friends of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt, and everyone who was affected by this horrific terrorist attack.
“An inquest jury on May 28 found unacceptable management and lack of accountability among the agencies responsible for Khan, coupled with insufficient experience and training the people managing him. Policing needs to learn lessons from this incident, and our independent investigation has played an important role in working with forces to identify improvements and help prevent tragedies like this happening again.
“While we didn’t find any wrongdoing by any officers, we have worked with counter-terrorism policing to ensure police forces update practices and close any gaps in the way they deal with ex-offenders. Our recommendations support other activity already underway to tighten up the way police officers nationally deal with terrorism offenders who are released and have to be monitored. Importantly, they will also ensure police officers are supported with the necessary training to do this work.”
The investigation into the police management of Khan following his release from prison and the deaths of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones began on December 12, 2019, and it concluded in March this year, and the report was shared with the families involved and with Staffordshire Police.
While the investigation into the fatal shooting of Khan began on November 29, 2019, and concluded in November last year, and the report was shared with Khan’s family, City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police.
Both investigation reports were provided to HM Coroner.