One of three men serving life for a plot to blow up liquid bombs on flights from the UK to North America has won permission to challenge his designation as a “high escape risk” prisoner.
Tanvir Hussain was given the go-ahead by a High Court judge to apply for judicial review against Justice Secretary Chris Grayling on the grounds that there was unfairness in the risk assessment process.
His QC argued the fact that Hussain maintained contact with other prisoners jailed for terrorism offences did not necessarily mean he was high risk.
Currently held at Long Lartin Prison in Worcestershire, the high risk assessment has remained in place since his arrest in August 2006.
It involves significant intrusion into his daily life, including being woken at night due to hourly checks, the judge heard.
Hussain, from Leyton, east London, was ordered to serve a minimum 32 years in jail when sentenced in September 2009 for being involved in a conspiracy to murder by planning to destroy seven trans-Atlantic aircraft.
Hussain, then aged 28, was convicted at Woolwich Crown Court along with Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, and Assad Sarwar, 29, of conspiring to activate bombs disguised as drinks.
The plot was disrupted in August 2006 when the men were arrested. The discovery of the cell, which was based in London and High Wycombe, was described by counter-terrorism officials as an al-Qaida-inspired suicide mission.
It led to restrictions being imposed on the liquids that travellers can take in their hand luggage.
Trial judge Mr Justice Henriques said the aim of the plotters was a terrorist outrage to “stand alongside” the 9/11 attacks on the US.
The latest decision to continue treating Hussain as a high escape risk prisoner – the middle ranking risk for Category A prisoners – was taken in July this year.
High Court judge Mr Justice Ouseley said Hussain had played “a substantial part in a wicked conspiracy”.
But he went on to rule there were arguable grounds for allowing his judicial review application to go to a full hearing.
Hugh Southey QC said the key reason given for the July 22 decision was Hussain’s continued contacts with other terrorist prisoners.
That was viewed as indicating he was maintaining the ideologies which motivated his offending.
The QC submitted it was obvious that his association did not necessarily mean that he was a high escape risk, and it was the “nature of the association” that mattered.
Hussain had made representations saying all associations were entirely innocent. He had been told those representations would be considered.
But the July decision against him did not address those representations or provide adequate reasons, argued Mr Southey.
A high standard of procedural fairness was required when escape risk was assessed, including disclosure of the information taken into account by the decision maker.
He contended that full information on the case suggested that Hussain posed a low risk.
Mark Leech editor of the national prisons newspaper Converse (www.markleech.com) said a ‘high’ escape risk assessment was only one of three risk levels that were capable of being imposed under the Category A regime.
Mr Leech said: “Most Category A prisoners are ‘Standard Risk’ which means escape would pose a significant threat to the public or national security – but where they neither have the contacts nor the planning ability to carry it out.
“‘High Risk’ is imposed where it is felt that the person concerned has contacts with people, and therefore access to possible resources, by which an escape could become a possibility.
“Finally, ‘Exceptional risk’ is imposed where there is creditable evidence or intelligence that a Category A prisoner is actively planning an escape attempt – this hapened two years ago to cop killer David Bieber who was flown by helicopter during the night from one maximum security prison to another when evidence of an escape plot came to life.”