Politicians traded blows on Saturday after it emerged that the London Bridge attacker was a convicted terrorist who had been released from prison just halfway through his 16 year sentence.
Usman Khan was released on licence in December 2018 and wearing a monitoring tag when he killed two people in a knife attack in London on Friday.
The 28 year-old was initially sentenced to an indeterminate sentence for public protection — a measure introduced by the Labour government in 2005 — for his part in an all-Qaeda-inspired plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange and establish a terrorist training camp.
The Imprisonment for Public Protection regime was later scrapped by the Conservative-led coalition in 2012. Khan was convicted in February 2012, before the indeterminate sentence was abolished.
Yvette Cooper, who served as shadow home secretary from 2011-2015, questioned in a series of tweets why he had been released from prison and said the government had been “warned” against ending IPPs.
Priti Patel, the Conservaitve Home Secretary, hit back saying that the law had been changed “to end Labour’s automatic release policy” and blamed Labour for introducing the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act in 2008.
After concerns that earlier provisions by the Labour government had increased the prison population, it provided for automatic release after prisoners serving long sentences had served half their term, without the prisoners’ having to go before the parole board, as they previously had to do.
Questions have been raised over the last 24 hours about Khan’s release from prison and why he was allowed to travel from his home in the West Midlands to carry out the attack in London.
Ms Cooper said: “Usman Khan was sentenced for serious terror offence in Feb 2012. Thought to be so dangerous by judge he was given IPP sentence to prevent release if still serious threat.
“Instead he was released 6 yrs later without Parole Board assessment. How cd this be allowed to happen?”
Ms Patel responded: “Because legislation brought in by your government in 2008 meant that dangerous terrorists had to automatically be released after half of their jail term.
“Conservatives changed the law in 2012 to end your automatic release policy but Khan was convicted before this.”
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said on Saturday there was “a question about what the Probation Office were doing.”
The Parole Board has said it had no involvement in Khan’s release and that he “appears to have been released automatically on licence”.
Ms Patel said: “The Parole Board could not be involved in this decision [Jeremy Corbyn]. Your party changed the law in 2008 so that Khan was automatically released irrespective of the danger he posed. Very concerning that you want to be PM but don’t understand this.”
The prime minister Boris Johnson used a visit to London Bridge to underline an argument the Conservative party had been making even before Friday’s attack — that prisoners should not automatically be eligible for release on licence halfway through their sentences.