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Statutory early release scheme gives rise to anomalies – appeal judges


By PA News

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A statutory scheme for taking into account convicted criminals’ early release provisions gives rise to “anomalies”, appeal judges have said.

Lord Justice Fulford, Mr Justice Edis and Mr Justice Foxton made the point on Thursday after being asked to increase minimum jail terms given to two people handed life sentences after being convicted of terror offences.

Lawyers representing the Attorney General’s office had argued the minimum terms given to Fatah Abdullah and Safiyya Shaikh were lenient.

The three judges, who considered the case at a Court of Appeal hearing in December, disagreed and said Abdullah’s nine-year minimum term and Shaikh’s 14-year minimum term should stay the same.

But the three judges acknowledged, in a written ruling, that “the statutory scheme” for taking into account early release provisions when setting minimum terms gave rise “to a number of anomalies”.

Safiyya Shaikh plotted a terror attack at St Paul’s Cathedral (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Safiyya Shaikh plotted a terror attack at St Paul’s Cathedral (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Abdullah, 35, a fanatic of the so-called Islamic State, was given a nine-year minimum term in June after a hearing at the Old Bailey heard how he encouraged a terror cell in Germany to commit mass murder with a car, bomb and meat cleaver.

He pleaded guilty to inciting terrorism overseas and engaging in conduct in preparation to assist others to commit terrorist acts.

Shaikh, 37, of Hayes, west London, was given a 14-year minimum term in July after a hearing at the Old Bailey heard how she plotted a terror attack at St Paul’s Cathedral.

She admitted preparation of terrorist acts and dissemination of terrorist publications on the internet.

Judges at the Royal Courts of Justice considered the challenge (Ian West/PA)
Judges at the Royal Courts of Justice considered the challenge (Ian West/PA)

Both sentences were handed down by the same judge, Mr Justice Sweeney.

Lawyers representing the Attorney General’s office argued that Mr Justice Sweeney had “misapplied or misconstrued” pieces of legislation.

They said he should have taken into account Terrorist Offenders (Restrictions of Early Release) Act – legislation, introduced in 2020, aimed at preventing terror offenders automatically being released from jail in the wake of attacks in London.

The three appeal judges said: “We have been unable to accept that submission, although we acknowledge that the statutory scheme for taking into account early release provisions when (setting) minimum terms gives rise to a number of anomalies.”

Barristers representing the Attorney General’s office argued that Abdullah, who lived in the Arthur’s Hill area of Newcastle upon Tyne, should have been given a 12-year minimum term, and Shaikh a minimum term of 18-and-a-half years.

Lawyers representing Abdullah and Shaikh had disagreed and said the challenge should be dismissed.


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