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MI5 had raised threat level for Fishmongers’ Hall attacker, inquest hears

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: West Midlands police/PA</span>
Photograph: West Midlands police/PA

MI5 raised the security threat level posed by the convicted terrorist Usman Khan less than a year before his deadly attack on Fishmongers’ Hall, but this assessment was not shared with the probation service, an inquest has heard.

Kenneth Skelton, Khan’s probation officer, said that had that been known, MI5’s assessment would have had a “huge” impact on the way Khan was managed after he was released on licence from high-security prison in December 2018, after serving six years for terrorist offences.

Skelton suggested that had he known of MI5’s concerns, Khan would not have been allowed to attend a prisoner education event at Fishmongers’ Hall in November 2019, where he killed Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones.

Nick Armstrong QC, counsel for Merritt’s family, told an inquest into their deaths about the security services’ concerns about Khan. He said: “In December 2018 Mr Khan was upgraded by MI5 from a level P4 to a level P3. That means it was assessed at the point of release that Khan continued to pose a risk to national security, and would need to be monitored post release.”

He added: “MI5 were concerned that he [Khan] was continuing to attempt to radicalise other Muslim prisoners, and importantly that he intended to re-engage in terrorism-related activities when released, including carrying out an attack.”

Skelton said he was unaware that MI5 was monitoring Khan or that his threat level had been upgraded because of these concerns. Armstrong asked: “If anything of that kind have been communicated to you, that would have twitched your antenna?”

Skelton replied: “definitely” and added: “It would have had huge impacts upon my decision-making.”

Armstrong then asked: “Including travel arrangements or anything else, if you’d known any of that [about MI5’s assessment], all of the decisions that you take in relation to Khan would have been affected by that?”

Skelton replied: “Definitely, yes.”

Armstrong also revealed that MI5 officers attended a number of multi-agency meetings aimed at managing the risk Khan posed to the public. He asked: “Did you see anybody there that looked like security services?”

Skelton said he attended 29 of the 30 of these so-called Mappa meetings, but was unaware MI5 was also attending. “At no point was I aware that M15 were present,” he said.

Armstrong said: “There were concerns that Khan was engaged in false compliance to try and avoid attention and to seek a more relaxed licence regime. If you had heard that MI5 shared those concerns, that too would have raised your alerts and security antenna?” Skelton said: “Yes”.

Armstrong told the inquest that Skelton had downgraded Khan’s threat level in a November risk assessment report. Skelton summarised in the document: “I would assess Mr Khan’s likelihood of re-offending risk of extremist offending is low.”

Armstrong described the ERG as “just hopeless” and inaccurate. Skelton replied: “I did that document, what I was asked to do, and I put every effort into doing that.”

Kevin Baumber, counsel for officers from Staffordshire police, asked Skelton: “How surprised were you when you found out Khan was responsible [for the Fishmongers’ Hall atrocity]?”

Skelton replied: “Very surprised. Astounded.”

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