British Muslim convert who gelled his hair ‘to look more Syrian’ before plotting to kill for ISIS is released from prison just a year after being deemed too dangerous to be freed
- EXCLUSIVE: Ismael Watson, 33, changed his birth name, Jack, after converting to Islam
A British Muslim convert who gelled his hair ‘to look more Syrian’ before plotting to kill for ISIS has been released from prison – just a year after being deemed too dangerous to be freed.
Ismael Watson, now 33, was turned down for parole in January 2022 but was automatically released 13-months later when he had served his full sentence of five years in jail.
MailOnline can reveal that the terrorist, who changed his name from his birth name Jack Watson after converting to Islam, was quietly released back on the streets in February this year.
Under current law, convicted terrorists such as Watson who are on a fixed determinate sentence and have behaved in prison will be released with a limited number of restrictions.
For Watson, originally from Liverpool, the main restriction was an extra 12-month extended licence ordered by the judge when he was sentenced in December 2017.
Ismael Watson, 33, who plotted to kill for ISIS, was released from prison In February after five years, despite being deemed too dangerous be freed one year earlier
Extended licences are only imposed on two per cent of offenders – around 1,000 in 2021 – and ordered in certain cases where the court has found that the convicted person is dangerous.
This means that Watson, who prosecutors at his trial said showed a determination to fight in a ‘holy war against Western oppressors’, will remain under supervision until the expiry of the extended period in February 2024.
At the end of this time, Watson will have limited restrictions, unlikely to be more than a police notification order, which requires those given more than 12 months for terror offences to advise the police of practices such as unauthorised travel.
Chris Phillips, the UK’s former Head of the National Counter Terrorism, told MailOnline that the unique threat posed by terrorists might warrant a change to the law to ensure that all terror offenders were given indeterminate sentences.
This would mean that a convicted terrorist would serve a minimum term and then have to convince the Parole Board they were no longer dangerous before being released, rather than automatically being released under a determinate sentence.
The then 27-year-old, who suffered from a bipolar disorder, had denied preparation of terrorist acts and had opted to represent himself but refused to attend court.
His first trial was abandoned and following a two-day retrial in September 2017, he was found guilty in his absence of preparing to commit acts of terrorism between 1 January 2016 and 23 February 2017 contrary to Section 5 Terrorism Act 2006.
Watson was said by prosecutors to have showed a determination to fight against ‘Western oppressors’ and will remain under supervision until February 2024. Here he has slicked down his hair for a more ‘Syrian’ look
Sentencing him in December 2017, Judge Anuja Dhir QC underlined that she believed Watson was an extremist and a danger to UK society.
She told him: ‘The evidence in this case proved that at the time of the offences you held deep and extensive radicalised beliefs that were demonstrated by the large volume of extremist material found on your mobile phone, and your positive and stated support for Islamic State and those involved in jihad.
‘You wanted to fight for Islamic State and you demonstrated a willingness to kill for them.’
MailOnline can reveal that Watson had his second parole hearing in January 2022 and his application to be released was refused based on a ‘paper review’ of his prison files, which included reports by staff and psychiatrists.
It is quite rare for parole appeals to be rejected based on an analysis of just written reports and denied Watson the chance to put his case face-to-face to the three-person panel.
A spokesperson for the Parole Board said at the time: ‘We can confirm that a panel of the Parole Board refused the release of Ismael Watson following a paper review.