For more than a decade, Abu Hamza ruthlessly exploited the British legal system and welfare state.
The failure of the authorities to take swifter action to stop him spreading his message of Islamist hatred also allowed countless terror suspects to be radicalised on the streets of North London.
Here, Home Affairs Editor JAMES SLACK examines the cost of allowing the hook-handed preacher to treat the British public with utter contempt for so long.
‘DEAL’ THAT LET POLICE IGNORE HAMZA’S HATE
Perhaps the most damning charge against the State is that the police and security services deliberately ignored the fanatic’s activities.
By the late 1990s, he was well-known to security officials and had been firmly linked to a terrorist kidnapping plot that led to the deaths of three British tourists and an Australian in the Yemen. Overall, he is said to have had nine meetings with MI5 and Special Branch agents, one at Scotland Yard, between 1997 and 2004.
He was even arrested in 1999 over the Yemen bomb plot and videos of his sermons were seized. But, incredibly, he was not charged with any offence – despite the tapes later forming part of his successful 2006 prosecution for inciting murder. It later emerged the tapes had not been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service by the police.
It was alleged there had been a ‘covenant of security’ forged between the security agencies and radical Islamists in the UK. The deal allowed radical clerics to orchestrate and encourage Islamist attacks abroad. In return, the brainwashing of young home-grown Muslims here was tolerated by the secret services in the hope there would be no attacks on targets in Britain.
EUROPE AND THE ENDLESS APPEALS
Hamza has exploited every possible opportunity to play the legal system. He appealed against his extradition to the US on terror charges in magistrates court and the High Court – which said the case for his removal was ‘unassailable’.
He also tried to take his legally aided fight to the House of Lords but was refused permission. In 2008, he headed for Strasbourg, which has delayed the removal of countless terror suspects over the years, to argue it would be a breach of his human rights for the US to lock him up for 50 years on charges of running a terror training camp.
The European Court of Human Rights spent an incredible four years – at a cost of at least £1million to the taxpayer – deliberating on the case.
It finally rejected his last appeal on Monday evening. Hamza also appealed against his conviction in the British courts for incitement to murder. This was swiftly dismissed in November 2006.
The true extent of Hamza’s milking of the legal aid system remains unclear – but a single solicitor earned almost £500,000 in fees just to act for the fanatic. Arani and Co received the sums between 2000 and last year.
Official estimates suggest the cost of his trial for incitement to murder was at least £1million, when barrister and other fees were included. The notoriety achieved by Muddassar Arani from representing Hamza has made her the solicitor of choice for a string of terror suspects.
The firm’s clients also include Dhiren Barot, who planned to use limousines for radioactive explosions, and Muktar Said Ibrahim and Yassin Omar, who took part in the failed July 21 bomb plot.
Last year, it received almost £1million in legal aid. In one month alone, January this year, Miss Arani billed £356,048, and in December last year she charged £204,501.
HOUSE AND BENEFITS
The radical preacher’s family has enjoyed huge benefit payments worth £650-a-week over the past decade, including a £600,000 five-bedroom council house in Shepherd’s Bush, West London, for his wife and their seven children.
The property, in the same street as one once owned by ex-Cabinet minister John Hutton, was given a £25,000 makeover by the council, including an £8,500 bathroom, a £13,500 kitchen, a new heating system and a complete redecoration. A plumber working on the house was told not to look at Hamza’s wife after she complained that he had seen her without her burka.
The family were allowed to keep the State hand-outs after Hamza was convicted in 2006 because all of the children were born in Britain.
The Taxpayers’ Alliance estimates Hamza has cost Britain at least £2.75million in welfare payments, council housing and legal costs.
Unknown to the authorities, Hamza bought a house for £220,000 cash in Greenford, West London, while in prison as a buy-to-let investment. It was later seized and sold for £280,000 to help fund part of his mammoth legal aid bill.
MOCKING THE TAXPAYER FROM BEHIND BARS
Even when he was behind bars, Hamza continued to cost the public a fortune.
At a cost of £650, plumbers spent two days replacing the standard twist taps in his cell at Belmarsh high-security prison with new chrome lever ones which he could work with his hook hand.
The authorities had two cells suitable for him available at any one time so he would not be inconvenienced during any searches to look for banned items such as mobile phone sim cards. The cost of keeping him locked up for eight years since 2004 is an estimated £500,000.
Yet, despite the extraordinary security, Hamza was still able to preach his sermons of hate to fellow inmates – ranting bile down the water pipes that connect to neighbouring cells.
Every effort was made not to offend the cleric. The home affairs select committee visited him inside jail to get his views on radicalisation. Astonishingly, the convicted terrorist was referred to as ‘Mr Abu Hamza’ throughout their report.
HAMZA’S HUMAN RIGHT TO BE BRITISH
Hamza, who arrived in Britain in 1979 from Egypt, was granted indefinite leave to remain in 1982 after marrying British-born Valerie Traverso.
The couple soon divorced, but the path was clear for Hamza to gain a passport from a country he despised and derided as a ‘toilet’, in 1986.
Attempts to then strip him of the document ended in expensive failure. David Blunkett said in 2003 that allowing the fanatic to keep his passport would ‘seriously prejudice’ the UK’s interests.
In 2010, a judge ruled it would be a breach of his human rights to take it away on the grounds it would leave Hamza – who had given-up his Egyptian nationality – stateless. The decision made it impossible to send the terrorist back to Egypt.
TERRIFYING LEGACY OF FINSBURY PARK MOSQUE
Hamza began spouting his messages of hate shortly after taking charge of the Finsbury Park mosque, in North London, in 1997.
It’s almost impossible to calculate the harm which was caused by the authorities allowing him to disseminate his poisonous beliefs.
Those who attended the mosque included July 7 suicide bombers Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer and Jermaine Lindsay. Four Al Qaeda-trained terrorists who failed in major plots also ‘came under his spell’ – shoebomber Richard Reid Sajid Badat, police killer and ricin poison plotter Kamal Bourgass and the ‘20th’ September 11 hijacker, Zacharias Moussaoui.
In all, 2,000 radicals are thought to have passed through its doors. In April 2002, Hamza was formally suspended from his position at the mosque by the Charity Commission for his inflammatory speeches.
Yet, scandalously, he was allowed to carry on his rants from the street outside. At a cost of tens of thousands of pounds, officers in London were taken off other duties to police the regular Friday events.
THE HEALTH SERVICE
The cleric has cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds in healthcare since returning from Afghanistan in the mid-1990s missing two arms and one eye.
He claims he suffered the injuries while working on a project to clear land mines.
Shortly after his conviction in 2006, he required a £10,000 operation on the NHS on his arm stumps. Doctors told prison staff that he was in constant pain and should be treated as quickly as possible.
He also used his alleged ill-health to delay the legal proceedings against him.
A hearing at the Old Bailey was cancelled after Hamza claimed putting on shoes would hurt his feet. He insisted his toenails had grown too long for conventional shoes, forcing the hearing to be rescheduled at a cost of £10,000.