The decision to let a convicted terrorist attend a prisoner education event in central London where he killed two Cambridge graduates should not have been the decision of a lone probation officer, an inquest jury was told.
Sonia Flynn, the executive director of the probation service, said homegrown jihadi Usman Khan’s visit to the Learning Together celebration at Fishmongers’ Hall in November 2019 should have been subject to a risk assessment.
Khan had been released as a category A high-risk prisoner in December 2018, having served eight years in jail for plotting a terrorist training camp in his parents’ homeland of Pakistan.
His attendance at the Learning Together event, on November 29 2019, was apparently rubber-stamped by probation officer Ken Skelton, who last week told inquests into the deaths of Khan’s victims that the decision was made in a room full of probation, police and security officials four months before the atrocity – despite no evidence of it being granted in the minutes from that meeting.
Giving evidence at City of London’s Guildhall on Monday, Mrs Flynn said: “That should have been a multi-agency decision, not a lone probation officer’s.”
She said Mr Skelton and his junior colleague Sumeet Johal were inexperienced dealing with terrorism offenders, and did not have the sufficient time to spend with Khan.
Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquests, said it may transpire that Mr Skelton informed the August 2019 Mappa (multi-agency public protection arrangements) meeting of Khan’s intention to travel from his home in Stafford to London, but that the suggestion received no objection and no risk assessment was done.
Mrs Flynn said: “There should have been some exploration of risks.
“Were there indicators to say he wasn’t deserving to attend an event of that kind?”
Mrs Flynn said the probation service’s internal review of the Khan case found that Learning Together was deemed to be a “hope factor” in his life, and so any risk assessment would likely have not found any reason to prevent Khan from attending.
She added: “I guess we will never know.”
Mrs Flynn expressed concern that Mr Skelton conducted meetings with Khan at his home, rather than in an office, which would have “tested” the 28-year-old.
The inquests previously heard evidence of those working with Khan since his conviction in 2012 had felt “conned” by the terrorist.
Mrs Flynn said: “Our staff can become groomed, and manipulated and begin to not see the risk of a very dangerous, violent individual in front of them.
“Ken Skelton was doing what he was doing, but his decisions to visit Mr Khan at home on his own – I’m not sure a police officer would have done that.
“Rehabilitation is important. But don’t lose sight of the individual and what they’re potentially capable of.
“One of the cornerstones of probation training is that past behaviour is an indicator of future behaviour.”
Khan was shot dead by police on London Bridge, pursued by three men who were in Fishmongers’ Hall at the time.
The inquests into the deaths of Khan’s victims – 25-year-old Jack Merritt, and 23-year-old Saskia Jones – continue.