- None of the educational establishments that SA attended were at fault in failing to identify him as being at risk of being radicalised or drawn into terrorism.No single institution had a comprehensive‑enough view of SA’s behaviour, family situation or potential risk factors, over a sufficiently long period of time, to recognise his descent into violent Islamist extremism.
- More needs to be done to ensure that education providers share relevant information about students such that those vulnerable to radicalisation can be more effectively identified than is currently the position.
- The mosques attended by SA and HA were not an active factor or cause in their radicalisation.
- The Prison Service needs a scheme designed to address the risk that radicalised prisoners present both to other prisoners and to visitors.
- SA should have been subject to a Prevent referral at some point in 2015 or 2016. However, it is very hard to say what would have happened if SA had been approached under Prevent or the Channel programme.
Schools, colleges and university
SA had a troubled educational history. There were some signs during his time in education that he was vulnerable to radicalisation, but they were not of sufficient significance that any institution can properly be criticised for failing to spot them and take further action at the time. After leaving secondary school, SA did not spend long at any one educational establishment, and the lack of any consistent system for passing information between institutions meant that there was no one person or organisation in a position to identify any concerning patterns of behaviour.
I instructed Professor Lynn Davies, an expert in education and extremism, to assist me.
“[SA] was never an academic student. He had difficulty in reaching suitable levels of achievement. This was at least in part because of patterns of behaviour linked to absenteeism, lateness, failure to complete assignments, and a general lack of commitment to study. His behaviour was problematic in each institution, particularly Burnage Academy, with 15 incidents of extreme rudeness to staff, fighting, swearing, theft and hooliganism.
Even at college level, when [SA] was an adult of some 20 years old, he was exhibiting disrespect for his staff, for example being on his mobile phone, suddenly leaving lessons, and being rude to library personnel. Although the head of student services at Manchester College said he wasn’t disrespectful to her, elsewhere this seemed to be more directed to female staff. He was clearly immature with inadequate insight into responsible learner behaviour and relationships. However, while his conduct was of concern, this could be said of many difficult students and could not obviously be linked to any radicalised behaviour.”
I will consider each of the relevant stages of SA’s education below.
Burnage Media Arts College
SA was a pupil at Burnage Media Arts College, now called Burnage Academy for Boys,th January 2009 and 24th June 2011. During that period, SA was 14 to 16 years old. The headteacher at the time, Ian Fenn, described SA as not showing any real interest in his studies. Another teacher considered SA to be a “dislikeable boy who displayed average laziness, mediocre rudeness and refused to complete his coursework on time”.between 12
SA did not engage in any behaviour that stood out as being unusually bad,although Ian Fenn did recall one occasion when SA stole another pupil’s mobile phone and was struck by his complete lack of remorse when confronted about the theft. There was another occasion when SA was aggressive and rude when leaving an exam. His behaviour gradually deteriorated over the course of his time at the school.
Burnage was well placed to spot any signs of radicalisation in SA. Ian Fenn himself was a convert to Islam. He had a good personal understanding of that faith and the local Muslim communities.He was involved in the efforts of both central and local government to tackle violent extremism from very shortly after the 7/7 attacks in 2005. Under his leadership, the school was at the forefront of developing the earliest versions of the Prevent and Channel programmes.
There were no obvious concerns about the Abedi family’s home environment.There was nothing to suggest that they held extremist views or opinions, which was an issue the school did pick up in relation to other families. It did appear to his teachers that SA’s father did not have any control over SA and that any attempts by his father to exert discipline were “largely ineffective”.
Before coming to Burnage Media Arts College, SA had been at Wellacre Technical College, but Burnage did not receive a Common Transfer File (CTF) after he arrived, as it should have.It is unlikely that receipt of the CTF would have made any difference to SA’s time at Burnage, but this was the first of several examples of failures to transfer information which I heard about during SA’s time in education. Ian Fenn told me that the failure to send a CTF to a child’s new school was “not unusual”. That needs to change.
Similarly, when SA left Burnage, the school was not told where he was going next.Under the system operating at the time, every child and young person has a unique pupil number which stays with them when they move school up until the age of 16. However, if a young person goes to college, they are assigned a different identifier, and there is no way of connecting the two numbers to facilitate the sharing of information. I will set out at paragraphs 22.180 to 22.185 my views on whether this should change.
In fact, on leaving Burnage, SA went with his family to Libya.Evidence obtained by the police since the Attack suggests that he and HA were involved to some extent in fighting as part of the civil war at that time.
When SA returned to the UK, he enrolled at Manchester College. He did so on 18th September 2012. He completed a full academic year and signed up for an evening class in the autumn term of 2013, before leaving Manchester College on 18th December 2013.
There is no statutory duty on schools to provide information about their pupils to further education colleges, and the level of information transferred is limited. Manchester College did not receive any information about SA when he started studying there.In particular, Manchester College had no idea that SA had spent time in Libya during the ongoing civil war between leaving Burnage and enrolling at Manchester College.
Rachel Pilling, who was a Head of Department and Safeguarding Lead at Manchester College at the relevant time,told me that, had Manchester College been aware of this, it would have raised alarm bells, and there would have been conversations with the police. She explained that the application process involved a form and two interviews. No information was elicited in those interviews about what SA had been doing in the year since he left school. However, if SA had not volunteered the information there was no other means for Manchester College to find out where he had been. In my view, that is not satisfactory.
SA’s attendance at Manchester College was poor. He did not attend the first two weeks of his course at all, then started attending as a result of disciplinary action, before this engagement deteriorated. By the autumn term of 2013, he had stopped attending completely.He did attempt to re‑enrol in 2014 but was unsuccessful. Manchester College did not know where SA went after leaving in 2013, and in particular it was not aware that he had also enrolled at Trafford College from September 2013.
Manchester College was aware that SA’s parents were in Libya. This was because it was Ismail Abedi who attended meetings during SA’s time at Manchester College to discuss disciplinary matters, including one about lack of attendance and another about disrespectful behaviour towards female students by a group of male students that included SA. There were no specific concerns that arose about the family, and the fact that it was an older brother who came to these meetings rather than SA’s parents was not regarded as unusual.
There was one incident of note. This took place in October 2012, shortly after SA started at Manchester College. He assaulted a female student by striking her on the back of the head. The police were involved initially. SA was not charged. Ismail Abedi attended the meeting about this incident with Manchester College staff. The matter was eventually dealt with by way of mediation.The appropriate safeguarding procedures were followed, as SA was still 17 and therefore a child for the purposes of safeguarding law and guidance.
Although this was a serious incident, it was the type of thing that occasionally happened at Manchester College, and it did not raise any particular red flags to suggest a concern wider than the assault itself. There was also nothing else during SA’s time at Manchester College to suggest to the college authorities that he was vulnerable to radicalisation.
Rachel Pilling said that she was sufficiently concerned about the absence of SA’s parents, in the light of this incident, that she asked the police to carry out a welfare check. It is not clear whether or not this was done, and the College did not follow up on it or take any further steps to investigate SA’s home situation or make a referral to child protection services.Rachel Pilling’s concern was appropriate. While something ought to have happened as a result of her actions, the evidence did not enable me to say which body ought to be criticised for the apparent lack of reaction.
Manchester College did not take steps to develop its understanding of Prevent until 2013. Initially, only managers received training on extremism rather than the front‑line teachers who were in contact with students.Rachel Pilling recalled that nothing was done to implement Prevent at a practical level until after she took over the safeguarding role in 2015.
Rachel Pilling was asked in evidence whether the implementation of Prevent could have occurred earlier. The effect of Rachel Pilling’s answer was that, with the benefit of hindsight, she accepted that it could.On the whole of the evidence I heard, I do not accept that hindsight is required to realise that Prevent should have been implemented earlier at Manchester College. I consider it should. However, in expressing that view, I am not making a personal criticism of Rachel Pilling. I welcome her candour. I also recognise that this shortcoming is likely to have been common across educational institutions at the time.
Professor Davies noted that Ofsted inspected Manchester College in 2013 and recorded: “[M]anagers and staff have a very good understanding of the risks that learners face from radicalisation and extremism.”This suggested that there may have been some form of training for staff prior to 2013.
Professor Davies’ view was that SA’s behaviour, including the assault on a female learner, was not sufficient to have justified a referral to the Channel programme. She thought it was reasonable that: “[H]is behaviour was always interpreted as being anger and short temper rather than an outpouring of religious ideology.”
I agree that it was reasonable to interpret SA’s actions in the way characterised by Professor Davies. However, for the future, in my view, misogynistic violence should be recognised as a potential indicator of radicalisation. Should such an event occur, it should be assessed by the educational institution concerned in the context of any other potential indicators of radicalisation. It should also be recorded as a potential indicator of radicalisation so that it is not overlooked should other signs emerge. In Part 25, I will make a recommendation in relation to this.
SA was enrolled as a student at Trafford College between 15th September 2013 and 22nd June 2015, when he was 18 to 20 years old. Staff there had been trained in looking out for potential radicalisation. Trafford College had made referrals to Channel before. However, there was nothing in SA’s behaviour during his time there that gave rise to concerns. He needed support to keep him engaged to a minimum standard, but he did achieve some qualifications. There was never a complete collapse in his engagement with his studies, and there was nothing exceptional about him in terms of either attainment or behaviour.
The only incident that could have led to further questions was when a member of staff saw an image on SA’s mobile phone which showed him holding a gun. The staff member questioned SA about this and was told that his family had lots of land in Tripoli and he had gone shooting there.She was satisfied with this explanation and took no further action.
With the benefit of hindsight, this image is obviously troubling. Trafford College has therefore reviewed the matter since the Attack. It concluded that it was a reasonable decision to take no further action, as SA made no attempt to hide the photograph and there were no other triggers to raise concerns.Professor Davies was of the same opinion. She noted that, even if the staff member had raised a concern, it is “extremely unlikely” that this incident would have led to any action being taken under the Channel programme.
I agree with Professor Davies’ assessment. However, this image was another potential indicator of extremism that, if looked at cumulatively with the other indicators I have identified, should have justified a referral to Prevent. I recommend that images of pupils handling firearms be recorded as a potential indicator of extremism, so that they can be taken into account in any assessment of radicalisation by educational institutions.
University of Salford
After leaving Trafford College, SA enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Salford on 3rd October 2015, studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree in business management. During that period, higher education institutions became subject to a statutory duty under section 26 of the Counter‑Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have due regard in the exercise of their functions to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. The University carried out preparatory work and provided training to its staff on identifying those vulnerable to radicalisation, prior to the duty coming into force.
The University did not receive any information about SA’s behaviour at previous educational institutions. It was, and still is, not routine for such information to be shared. The principle applied by the University of Salford is to accept students if they have the relevant qualifications, even those who have had difficulties in the past, so as not to deny them the opportunity for a higher education.In my view, consideration should be given to universities receiving information about students from previous institutions they have attended. In Part 25, I will make a recommendation in relation to this.
SA’s first year at the University was unremarkable, and he progressed into the second year of his course in October 2016.th January 2017, he signed his name, but did not answer any questions. He left early. The University has no record of any further engagement from SA with classes after that date. The last time SA used his access card to enter a University building was 30th January 2017. His conduct in the exam was “by no means unique”. There was no active attempt by the University to re‑engage SA in his studies after this time.However, his academic performance and attendance rapidly went downhill from December 2016. He did not submit an assignment that month. At an exam on 13
I consider SA’s behaviour in the January exam to have been out of the ordinary. It is likely that he had already disengaged entirely from his studies by then and had committed to the path of violent extremism. It is possible that he attended the exam because he was due to receive payment of the next tranche of his student loan and wanted to make sure that he remained registered at the University for a further term so that the payment was not cancelled.However, it is not possible to know for sure.
Following the Attack, the University commissioned an internal review to examine whether there were any failings in its systems of student support and engagement, or the way it had implemented its Prevent duty.The overall findings were that the University had no information to suggest that SA was at risk of being drawn into terrorism, that there was no evidence of wider problems with students presenting with extreme political or religious views, and that the systems in place were appropriate. The review considered that there was a missed opportunity to deal with SA’s disengagement from his studies in January 2017, but that it was impossible to say whether this would have made any difference.
Professor Davies agreed with the conclusions of the internal review that there was no failure on the part of the University of Salford to identify or prevent SA’s radicalisation.
“By the time this exam failure was recorded and categorised, [SA] had basically left. It is doubtful he would even have attended for an interview. Whilst earlier on in his academic career he did have aspirations for a career and a good job, this had disappeared. He would not be appealing for mitigation for a result in order to continue his study and had no incentive to engage with his tutors.”
The better opportunity, in Professor Davies’ opinion, was in the first semester of 2016, when SA had not fully disengaged. There was no record of any personal communication from his tutors at that point, and an intervention may have had some effect.
“At [higher education] level, it must be remembered that these are adult learners with their own rights and responsibilities. Unless someone is displaying signs of risk to themselves or others, or actively seeks support, emotionally or academically, then tutors are not honour bound to intervene in what might seem like lack of enthusiasm; [indeed] on the contrary, the decision may well be to advise the student to withdraw.”
Students’ engagement with university is not a straightforward issue. Some students will perform well on their courses despite limited personal attendance; some will have good reasons, from illness to family problems, to disengage for a time. It may seem somewhat alarming, particularly to the parents of university students, that there is no duty on university authorities to inform them if their child abruptly stops attending lectures or otherwise disengages, but that is the consequence of students being adults who make their own choices.There must be some lawful basis for their personal data to be shared with their family, or this would be a breach of their right to privacy and the duties of the university under the Data Protection Act 2018.
In light of the evidence I heard, I do not consider that the University of Salford can be criticised but I was surprised to learn that a university would not do anything to find out what has happened to a student in these circumstances.
Missed opportunities within SA’s education
Overall, none of the educational establishments that SA attended was at fault in failing to identify him as being at risk of being radicalised or drawn into terrorism. No single institution had a comprehensive‑enough view of SA’s behaviour, family situation or potential risk factors, over a sufficiently long period of time, to recognise his descent into violent Islamist extremism.
This raises the question of whether more can be done to ensure that education providers share relevant information about students such that those vulnerable to radicalisation can be more effectively identified. If there had been more continuity or transfer of information, it is realistically possible that there would have been more opportunity to pick up signs of SA’s radicalisation. In my view, the present system is rather hit and miss and that is obviously unacceptable.
Although there may be some administrative benefit in Ian Fenn’s suggestion of the unique pupil number following a student all the way through to higher education, this does not itself provide any information about behaviour.Similarly, the CTF in its current form is unlikely to be of assistance. Currently, the CTF only applies to schools and does not follow students when they leave school and go on to further or higher education. Were it to continue to track a student the whole way through the education system, it would not provide much help in identifying vulnerability to radicalisation because the level of information it contains related to behaviour is limited.
The CTF, or a similar record, would need to contain more information than it currently does about behaviour to be of any benefit for the purposes of detecting radicalisation. This raises two problems, as identified by Professor Davies. I do not regard either as insuperable.
First, having a behavioural record that follows a student to any new educational institution might make it harder for the student to change or improve:
“I think the idea which I think has come up in the discussions before is that you do have a clean start in the next institution, you don’t want to drag previous things, students do mature, they do get better, they’ve had difficulty histories, but they are may be different. So you don’t want to necessarily go in with a label saying ‘delinquent’ or ‘badly behaved’ or whatever, you start afresh at each institution.”
While important and desirable to ensure, so far as possible, that a person can turn over a new leaf at a new institution, I am not convinced that this is sufficient to outweigh the advantage in having some information about behaviour track a student. This is something I recommend that the Department for Education consider.
The second, more difficult, problem is determining what nature of incident, and what level of seriousness, should be required for it to trigger inclusion in any ongoing record. Whether an incident suggests vulnerability to extremism inevitably involves an element of subjectivity and judgement. Determining an appropriate and objective threshold is not straightforward.In Part 25, I will make a recommendation in relation to this.
One of the areas investigated by Operation Manteline was whether SA and HA worshipped at any particular mosque. The purpose was to establish whether any part of the brothers’ radicalisation may have taken place in such an environment.
I heard evidence about the outcome of this aspect of the Operation Manteline investigation, along with evidence from those with firsthand knowledge of relevant events. Dr Wilkinson considered that evidence with care, assessing whether the mosques attended by SA and HA were a cause of, or factor in, their radicalisation. He came to the firm conclusion that they were not.I agree. It is therefore possible for me to deal briefly with the substantial body of evidence I heard about this topic.
The investigation found links of substance between SA and HA and two mosques, both in Manchester: the Al‑Furqan Islamic Centre, also known as the Al‑Furqan Mosque, and the Manchester Islamic Centre, also known as Didsbury Mosque.
A number of witnesses, including the Director of the Al‑Furqan Mosque, informed Operation Manteline that SA and HA had attended that mosque to pray for a time in 2015, into 2016. There was no evidence that either held any role within the mosque during that period, or that any particular incident of note occurred.Dr Wilkinson’s view was that the Al‑Furqan Mosque was a “mainstream community mosque”. I accept his conclusion and am confident that attendance at this mosque played no part in the radicalisation of SA and HA.
Even though I ultimately came to the same view in relation to Didsbury Mosque, the position here was more complicated. Furthermore, the evidence I heard gives rise to important areas for improvement. It is therefore necessary to say more about this mosque.
Two main issues were explored in relation to Didsbury Mosque: first, the extent of the connection between the Abedi family and the mosque and, second, the links between the mosque and groups connected to the Libyan conflict.
The principal witnesses on these issues were Fawzi Haffar and Mohammed El‑Saeiti. Fawzi Haffar has been a trustee of Didsbury Mosque since 2003 and Chairman of the mosque since March 2018.st July 2020.Mohammed El‑Saeiti worked as an imam at the mosque for more than ten years, until his employment there ended in circumstances of rancour on 31
The evidence of these witnesses on the two main issues differed to a significant extent. It was therefore necessary for me to decide which of the two was reliable. In making that decision, I had regard to my impression of each witness when he gave evidence but tested that impression against the other evidence that was available, including some contemporaneous emails. I also kept in mind that Mohammed El‑Saeiti feels wronged by the mosque and so might have a reason to embellish his account.
Ultimately, I regarded Mohammed El‑Saeiti as a generally truthful and reliable witness. Conversely, in a number of respects I concluded that Fawzi Haffar was unreliable and, at some points, his evidence lacked credibility. My impression was of a man who was describing what he wished the position had been, rather than what it in fact was.
On the issue of the connection between the Abedi family and Didsbury Mosque, in evidence Fawzi Haffar said that SA had hardly attended the mosque since he was a child.nd May 2017. Samia Tabbal had also helped at the school for a short period, but Fawzi Haffar said that, in common with the other members of the Abedi family, he had never met her.Since the Attack, he had discovered that Ramadan Abedi had made the call to prayer for a period until 2005 or 2006 but suggested that this was a minor role for a volunteer and said that he had not personally ever heard Ramadan Abedi make the call to prayer or even heard his name prior to the Attack. He explained that he had also discovered that Ismail Abedi had helped in the mosque school for a period, but he had never known of that fact or heard his name either until after 22
In my view, the evidence of Fawzi Haffar tended to downplay the strength of the links between the Abedi family and Didsbury Mosque in the years leading up to the Attack. On the whole of the evidence, I am satisfied that SA, HA and Ismail Abedi all attended the mosque to pray over a lengthy period, as did their father Ramadan Abedi. Ramadan Abedi and Ismail Abedi had, for periods, specific roles within the mosque. I also accept the evidence of Mohammed El‑Saeiti that there was an occasion in late 2014 when SA gave him a hateful look in reaction to a sermon he had given on 3rd October 2014.
Two additional pieces of evidence that emerged during the Inquiry supported me in the view I formed.
First, on 3rd October 2014, Mohammed El‑Saeiti delivered the sermon to which I have referred. I accept his evidence that in that sermon his purpose was to criticise the actions of terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Al‑Qaeda in Libya. A section of the congregation reacted badly to the sermon and something of a campaign developed against Mohammed El‑Saeiti. As part of that campaign, Ramadan Abedi posted a critical message on social media and HA and Ismail Abedi signed a petition calling upon Mohammed El‑Saeiti to be sacked. This demonstrates the strength of connection between the Abedis and the mosque. It also demonstrates the extent to which the political situation in Libya was a prominent issue within its premises.
Second, in the course of its investigation, Operation Manteline seized a video recording of some form of meeting taking place within the mosque on 28th July 2015. Operation Manteline assessed that the video showed Ramadan Abedi performing a prominent role in the meeting. Even though Fawzi Haffar told me that he could not identify the person concerned, I am satisfied that the identification of Ramadan Abedi was correct. Our understanding of what was shown by the recording developed significantly when Mohammed El‑Saeiti gave evidence. He explained that he was able to identify Ramadan Abedi, that Ramadan Abedi’s name was actually mentioned on the soundtrack to the footage and that the meeting concerned the impending marriage of Ismail Abedi. I accept the evidence of Mohammed El‑Saeiti. This footage represents strong evidence linking the Abedi family to Didsbury Mosque.
Even if it is the case that in the immediate aftermath of the Attack, the leadership of Didsbury Mosque did not have an understanding of the strength of the Abedi family’s links to the mosque, in the course of engaging with the Inquiry the leadership should have investigated matters more thoroughly and provided a more complete and accurate account of the Abedis’ connection.
On the issue of the links between the mosque and groups connected to the Libyan conflict, Fawzi Haffar gave extensive evidence. He said that at one time about 20 per cent of those who attended Didsbury Mosque had been of a Libyan heritage, but that this had reduced to about 8 or 10 per cent by 2017 and to a maximum of 5 per cent now.He denied that the mosque had strong ties to Libya, stating, “[W]e have no ties to Libya, no ties to Libyan groups,” and said that the mosque had, prior to the time of the Attack, no knowledge of any attendee going to Libya to fight in the conflict there. The thrust of his evidence was that the mosque deprecated the use of its premises for political purposes, whether by the imams or by groups and did what it could to prevent that happening.
In my view, Fawzi Haffar’s evidence was not an accurate reflection of the position in the years before 2017. It lacked credibility. The leadership of the mosque must have known that during this period there existed what Dr Wilkinson correctly concluded was a “very toxic political environment” among members of the congregation related to the situation in Libya.
There are a number of reasons why I have reached this conclusion.
First, in 2011, the leadership of the mosque dealt with a situation in which one of the imams, Mustafa Graf, had been detained in Libya amid claims that he had been fighting; an image of him in military fatigues had emerged.rd October 2014 about the situation in Libya. It must have been clear to the leadership that the political situation in Libya was a prominent issue in the mosque for years before 2017.Then subsequently, the leadership of the mosque had to deal with a controversial sermon delivered by Mustafa Graf, which in one view, although not the only view, encouraged support for armed jihad in Syria and other parts of the Muslim world. As I have explained in paragraph 22.198, the leadership of the mosque had also had to deal with the fallout from Mohammed El‑Saeiti’s sermon on 3
Second, Mohammed El‑Saeiti gave evidence that, in the period from 2014 and during 2015 and 2016, meetings were held at the mosque by supporters of extremist groups engaged in the conflict in Libya.I do not consider that the evidence enables me to go so far as to say that the meetings were organised by those who supported extremism, but I do accept that meetings took place that were focused upon the political situation in Libya and at which individuals who supported the fighting there were present. I also accept that such meetings continued in the years after the Attack; video evidence of one such meeting in February 2020 was produced. This contradicted the evidence of Fawzi Haffar that the mosque was not used for such purposes.
Overall, I accept that the leadership of Didsbury Mosque had no positive wish for its premises to be used for political purposes, let alone for the support of violent Islamist factions fighting in Libya or elsewhere. My impression from all the evidence was that the leadership recognised that members of its congregation represented both sides of the conflict in Libya and wished to avoid offending either group. That led to a form of wilful blindness in respect of the activities that occurred at the mosque. That was weak leadership.
On any view, in the years leading up to the Attack, the leadership of the mosque did not pay sufficient attention to what went on at its premises and did not have policies in place that were robust enough to prevent the politicisation of its premises, which I find occurred. It should have done. That is a lesson that all religious establishments must learn.
Didsbury Mosque has charitable status. It was suggested to me that, based on the evidence heard during the Inquiry, I should report the mosque to the Charity Commission. Having considered this carefully, I have concluded that it is unnecessary. The Charity Commission has already put in place an action plan. The Charity Commission can consider what I have said in light of the progress Didsbury Mosque has made on the action plan. In those circumstances, the Charity Commission is best placed to reach its own judgement about whether further action is required.
As I have explained, SA visited Abdalraouf Abdallah in prison on two occasions: once while he was on remand at HMP Belmarsh on 26th February 2015 and again on 18th January 2017 at HMP Altcourse, where Abdalraouf Abdallah was serving a sentence of imprisonment for terrorism offences. There was also a series of calls between SA and Abdalraouf Abdallah in 2015, while Abdalraouf Abdallah was in custody. Finally, Abdalraouf Abdallah contacted SA using an illicit mobile phone while he was serving his sentence at HMP Altcourse.
There is no evidence as to precisely what was discussed between SA and Abdalraouf Abdallah on the visits. There is no evidence that any form of attack planning or preparation was mentioned.
However, as set out at paragraph 22.106, it is likely that Abdalraouf Abdallah was a radicalising influence on SA. It is surprising that he was allowed to have him visit and communicate with him by telephone without some form of monitoring or checks being made. Dr Wilkinson no doubt spoke for many when he suggested that there should be more routine monitoring of the visits to those who are in prison for terrorist offences.I shall return to this in Part 25.
Abdalraouf Abdallah was provisionally made a Category A prisoner when first remanded on 3rd December 2014. This was because of the nature of the offence alleged at that time. This is the category that involves the most restrictions being placed on a prisoner, including in relation to visitors through the Approved Visitor Scheme. Under the Approved Visitor Scheme, all visitors were checked and risk‑assessed before visits were allowed.
On 5th December 2014, Abdalraouf Abdallah was formally categorised as a Category B prisoner. Following his conviction, his categorisation was reviewed. He was again categorised as a Category B prisoner. He was a Category B prisoner on 22nd May 2017.
The categorisation system did not focus on the outward risk a prisoner may pose to members of the public from within prison, but on the prisoner’s escape risk and the risk to the public if the prisoner escaped.The scheme was not designed for, or intended to manage, the risk of an extremist radicalising a person susceptible to radicalisation who might be visiting the prisoner.
Paul Mott, the Head of the Joint Extremism Unit, accepted in evidence that at the time of SA’s visits to Abdalraouf Abdallah there was no specific guidance covering management of terrorist risk from visits.
Discipline and control within the prison estate is governed by Prison Service Instructions (PSIs). PSIs are identified by number and year of publication. There were two PSIs drawn to the Inquiry’s attention: PSI 15/2011 and PSI 13/2016.
PSI 15/2011 was entitled ‘Management of Security at Visits’. It did not address the risk of radicalisation.
PSI 13/2016 was entitled ‘Managing and Reporting Extremist Behaviour in Custody’. It did not come into force until after the visits.Even then, its focus was on threats into the prison system rather than threats to those outside prison from those within.
Similarly, the local visitor policy at HMP Altcourse reflected the national guidance and made no reference to the risk posed by convicted terrorists to the outside world.
The Prevent guidance in place in 2015–17 recognised the role that prison staff have in identifying radicalisation risks, and the training that they need to help them do so.In reality, however, Paul Mott described an “acute” issue with the level of resources committed to the prison estate in 2017 and acknowledged that issues with inadequate staffing numbers and counter‑extremism training and support for prison officers “arguably” remained the same at the date of his evidence in December 2021.
Management of the risk posed by terrorist prisoners was dependent on the information prisons receive from partner agencies. Paul Mott accepted in evidence that the system in 2017 for sharing intelligence with the Prison Service was “relatively disconnected”.
There were some controls and processes in place. Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) used a system called Pathfinder for managing extremist prisoners. Attendees at Pathfinder meetings included offender managers and the police.They would be expected to discuss any new contacts, including external contacts, and if there were concerns visitors could be banned or restricted. This had been done in the past, before 2016. Pathfinder could also lead to sanctions on prisoners and monitoring of mail and telephone calls.
Under Rule 34 of the Prison Rules 1999, visits needed to take place within the sight and hearing of prison officers or staff.Dr Wilkinson suggested that all non‑legal visits to radicalising prisoners should be audio‑visually recorded. In my view, there are likely to be problems with recording all visits, both in terms of justifying the interference with Article 8 rights to private and family life, and finding the necessary equipment to record all visits and monitor the recordings. I do not think this suggestion is practicable.
PIN telephone calls were not monitored for terrorist offenders until April 2016, but since then it has been policy to do so.
Changing the Approved Visitor Scheme from its focus on escape risk is unlikely to be the best solution. The answer is likely to be a different and separate scheme focused on the risk of radicalisation.I was told that HMPPS is producing a new Communications Policy Framework which will address this. It is important that this should happen.