The Telegraph has accused Sir Keir Starmer “of presiding over a ‘sweetheart’ deal that eventually led to the early release from jail of the London Bridge terrorist.”
The Shadow Brexit Party Secretary was in charge of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) when it allowed a plea bargaining deal involving Usman Khan in which he was allowed to plead guilty to one terrorism charge. Experts have now argued that if Khan had been successfully convicted on all charges he would have served a longer sentence and would have still been in jail at the time of the attack at the end of last month.
According to The Telegraph:
The CPS said on Sunday it would be ‘usual’ for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) – who was Sir Keir at the time – to be ‘briefed’ on decisions in serious terror cases.
Khan was shot dead by police after he went on the rampage near London Bridge, stabbing to death two young people working with a charity trying to rehabilitate him. Khan, 28, had been released from prison last December after serving half of a 16-year sentence for his role in a 2010 plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange and his plan to set up a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.
But the CPS is now accused of striking a deal with Khan and co-conspirators in 2012 in which he pleaded guilty to one charge of preparing to set up a terrorist training camp. A second charge of ‘conspiracy to cause an explosion in the UK’ relating to plan to blow up the Stock Exchange and pubs in his home town of Stoke was allowed to ‘lie on the file’.The decision to accept Khan’s single guilty plea led to him being sentenced to a minimum of eight years in jail.
The complex case – involving nine offenders working in three linked terror cells – saved prosecutors the expense of a five-month trial at cost estimated at as much as £2 million and the risk that Khan and his co-defendants would be found not guilty at the end of it.
The CPS insisted that the decision to prosecute only one charge in return for a guilty plea had no bearing on the sentence given to Khan at trial and amended on appeal.
A CPS spokesman said: “We are clear on the facts of the case, and our assessment is that no alternative offence would have made a difference – both carry a maximum life sentence . There is no reason to think a conspiracy to cause explosions would result in a higher sentence than the section 5 offence for which he was prosecuted and pleaded guilty.”
The CPS added: “Specialist lawyers in CPS Counter Terrorism Division are responsible for decision making in these cases, in conjunction with counsel. It is usual for the DPP to be briefed on the most serious cases.”But criminal justice experts said that had Khan been found guilty of both offences, then his sentence would have been far longer.
Franklin Sinclair, one of Britain’s leading criminal defence lawyers and a former chairman of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association, said: “If he [Khan] had been found guilty of both charges at trial, he normally would have got a much longer sentence. But they [prosecutors] may have thought it was better keeping him inside for at least eight years rather than risk him being released after a failed prosecution.”
Dr Alan Mendoza, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, a think tank that published a definitive list of Islamist terrorists including Khan, said: “Khan appears to have been offered a sweetheart deal based on the established practice of the day to secure a guilty plea over trial. But the established practice has been proven wrong as three of nine defendants in this case have re-offended. It should be explained why this was allowed to happen.”
Harry Fletcher, a victims’ rights campaigner and former senior official in the probation union, said: “Had a decision been made to proceed with all the offences and a conviction obtained, then Usman Khan could have got a much longer sentence and he would still be in prison today. But the CPS decided, in line with normal practices,to just proceed with the offence that Khan pleaded guilty to. That saved a five month trial that would have cost in excess of £ 2million. That is not an unusual practice.“Whoever is the new minister for justice will have to review the current practice of plea bargaining.”
A spokesman for Sir Keir said he did not comment on cases he dealt with while DPP. If Jeremy Corbyn wins the election, Sir Keir is expected to become Labour’s chief negotiator on a new Brexit deal. If Mr Corbyn loses, Sir Keir will become a front runner to lead the Labour Party.
Meanwhile the Father of Jack Merritt who was brutally murdered by Islamist terrorist has asked for his son’s death not to be politicised yet has repeatedly shared tweets against Boris Johnson, Brexit and tougher sentences for terrorists. Many on social media have condemned this as putting their families lives at risk.
The politicisation of David Merritt’s grief is repulsive. The Guardian and others are exploiting a father’s pain to bash Boris Johnson, demonise the tabloids, and promote a cowardly approach to terrorism. This is emotional blackmail, says Brendan O’Neill https://t.co/0hSQwmADDU
— spiked (@spikedonline) December 4, 2019
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