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London Bridge attack: Coroner recommends new offences for possession of extremist propaganda

ISIS-inspired attack triggers recommendation MI5 strengthens investigations into terror suspects

Members of the emergency services attend to victims of the terror attack on London Bridge AFP
Members of the emergency services attend to victims of the terror attack on London Bridge AFP

New laws should be drawn up to prohibit the possession of extremist propaganda, the England and Wales’ Chief Coroner has said following an inquest into the 2017 London Bridge terror attack.

Judge Mark Lucraft, who oversaw the prevention of future deaths report published on Friday, criticised current legislation which he said made it impossible for the security services to act when individuals were found in possession of content “of the most offensive and shocking character".

The recommendation was one of 18 matters of concern highlighted in the report made public following the inquest into the deaths of eight people killed in June 2017 when Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22 deliberately drove a van into unsuspecting pedestrians.

The attackers, who the inquest has ruled were killed lawfully by police, stabbed people at random around the busy shopping area of Borough Market after exiting the rented van.

The inquest at London’s Old Bailey heard that Butt, who was known to the UK’s internal security MI5 as a subject of interest, had been exposed to extremist material for a years before the attack. This content included sermons by extremist preachers and violent images and propaganda disseminated by the Islamic State group (ISIS).

"While there are offences of possessing a document likely to be useful to a person in committing an act of terrorism … there is no offence of possessing terrorist or extremist propaganda material,” Mr Lucraft said.

"I have formed the view that consideration ought to be given to legislating for further offences of possession of the most serious material glorifying or encouraging terrorism," he added.

The coroner recommended new laws could be introduced to combat the glut of extremist material in the same way legislation had been used to tackle offensive pornography.

The families of those killed in the attack also called on MI5 to review the importance it places in extremist material when dealing with subjects of interest. Mr Lucraft said investigators should be able to make judgements on such suspects, many of whom possess the kind of offensive extremist material in question.

The report has also said Britain’s security services should improve the systems they uses to identifying possible targets for terror attacks and regularly review them. It has said Britain’s capacity for translating communications from foreign intelligence services should also be expanded as well as better first aid training provided for the police and firearms officers.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has until January 10 to respond to the report, setting proposed points of action. If the government decides not to respond she will also have to explain why.

Xavier Thomas, 45, Chrissy Archibald, 30, Sara Zelenak, 21, James McMullan, 32, Kirsty Boden, 28, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, Sebastien Belanger, 36, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39 were killed in the ISIS-inspired London Bridge attack. A separate inquest has ruled they were killed unlawfully.

Britain was rocked by a number of ISIS-inspired terror attacks in 2017, as well as the London Bridge attack, including the Manchester Arena Bombing in which 23 people were killed.

The Islamist extremist group carried out a series of terror attacks in western Europe after establishing its so-called caliphate across vast swathes of Iraq and Syria from 2014 onwards.

While some of those attacks, including those on carried out in Paris and Brussels in 2015 and 2016 respectively, were masterminded by ISIS operatives who had fought with the group in the Middle East, others, like London Bridge, were carried out by individuals inspired by ISIS. In those instances, ISIS would claim responsibility for the attacks in their aftermath.

Updated: November 1, 2019 10:18 PM

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