Police and security services face a surge in the number of convicted terrorists released from prison, Guardian analysis has shown, prompting warnings over the unique threats posed by extremists back on the streets.
More than 40% of the sentences for terrorism offences handed down over a 10-year period will have been served by the end of the year, figures compiled by the Sentencing Council show.
More than 80 of the 193 terms issued for terrorism offences between 2007 and 2016 will run out by the end of this year. However, the number of individuals released could be much higher as prisoners are eligible for release halfway through their sentence.
Among those eligible for parole in 2018 is the Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary, who was jailed in September 2016 for five and a half years after already spending five months on remand in custody.
The analysis comes as the home secretary is set to unveil the government’s updated counter-terrorism strategy, as officials warn Britain faces a severe threat from Islamist terrorism for at least another two years.
Sajid Javid will present the renewed Contest strategy on Monday with a speech in central London, a day after the first anniversary of the London Bridge terror attack, in which three men killed eight people and injured nearly 50 with a rental van and knives. The assailants were shot dead at the scene.
Richard Walton, who was head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command for five years from 2011 to 2016, said convicted terrorists released back into the community were a “worrying risk pool” for police and MI5 and place a burden on the authorities.
He said: “Terrorist prisoners released on licence place a resource burden on both specialist counter-terrorism detectives and on mainstream policing. A risk-management process is used to monitor those released on licence and the monitoring of high-risk offenders is extremely resource intensive.
“In essence, however, former convicted terrorist offenders are a worrying risk pool for MI5 and counter-terrorist policing. Intelligence is often insufficient to gauge whether they have any intent to reoffend owing to their recent incarceration. Those intending to reoffend also often ‘lay low’ for a period as they know that there will be close attention on them after release.”