Convicted murderer told of ‘imminent’ plots to kill him – as police issue thousands of ‘threat to life’ warnings | UK News
A convicted murderer who has been warned by police of “imminent” plots to kill him says he refuses to take more precautions to protect himself.
It comes as new figures show hundreds of people, including children, received official warnings about threats against their lives last year.
Kevin Lane said he has been given multiple “threat to life” notices – also known as Osman warnings – since he was found guilty of shooting dead Robert Magill in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, in 1994.
Police issue the letters when they have intelligence of a real and immediate threat to someone’s life but not enough evidence to justify arresting the possible offender.
A Sky News investigation has found more than 2,900 threat-to-life warnings have been issued by police since 2018 – including at least 222 given to people under the age of 18.
The total number is likely to be much higher as most forces failed to provide details following freedom of information requests – including the Metropolitan Police, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the West Midlands and Merseyside forces.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has suggested scrapping threat-to-life notices, with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) telling Sky News they are disproportionately more likely to be given to criminals and are “using precious resources to protect murderous gangs from death threats against each other”.
Lane – who was released from his murder sentence in 2015 and continues to protest his innocence – said he received his latest Osman warning from police after returning from a trip in Turkey about four months ago, and was told: “There’s an imminent threat against your life.”
“I was fuming,” he told Sky News.
“I’d just had one a month before that. And some before that as well. I said ‘what are you doing?’
“You know where these are coming from… they have to have a source for them to receive the information.
“What are they doing about the source? Do they pull these culprits in to let them know they’re aware someone has mentioned them?”
‘An inevitable threat’
Lane said police did not divulge if they knew who was behind the threats, but he believes he knows who was responsible.
“I know who they’re coming from,” he said.
“These people are telling people they’re going to shoot me and have me killed. It’s common knowledge.
“It’s gone up to £200,000 now to weigh me in.
“It’s an inevitable threat I take seriously but I won’t change my lifestyle.”
Asked if he was worried about threats being made to kill him, he replied: “Look, I wish there weren’t.
“I’m not worried about it. I lived in prison for 20 years with people walking around wanting to kill me, slash me.”
What are threat-to-life warning notices?
- Threat-to-life warning notices were started after businessman Ali Osman was shot dead in east London in 1988 by a teacher who had previously said he was thinking of committing a massacre.
- Paul Paget-Lewis also shot and wounded Mr Osman’s son, Ahmet, after becoming obsessed with him while working at his school. He was later convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
- In 1998, the Osman family successfully argued in the European Court of Human Rights that the Met Police had breached Mr Osman’s right to life because it had all the information it needed to deal with the threat.
- It was a significant ruling which led to the formal ‘Osman warning’ letters being introduced.
- When issuing the warnings, officers will often visit the home of the threatened person and advise they change their schedule, be on the lookout for suspicious activity and potentially move home temporarily, according to the charity Pace (Parents Against Child Exploitation).
What does the data show?
A total of 2,941 threat-to-life warning notices were issued by police between 2018 and November 2022, according to data provided by 12 UK forces.
They included 765 warnings handed out in 2021, the figures showed.
Most forces failed to respond to Sky News’ freedom of information requests or refused to provide the information, saying it was not easily retrievable.
Among the forces to respond:
• Greater Manchester Police said 445 threat-to-life warnings were issued in 2021, up from 411 in 2020, 319 in 2019, and 251 in 2018. They included 193 warnings given to under-18s.
• North Yorkshire Police said 55 threat-to-life warning notices were handed out in 2022 – a big rise on previous years when one was issued in 2021, six in 2020, two in 2019 and seven in 2018.
Asked why there had been a marked increase in threat-to-life notices this year, a force spokeswoman said it was possibly due to “increasing levels of policing regarding county lines and drug trafficking”.
• Humberside Police said 144 threat-to-life warning notices were issued in 2021, up from 134 the previous year. A further 155 of the warnings were handed out in 2019 and 179 in 2018.
• Police Scotland said 20 threat-to-life warnings were issued in 2021, up from 18 in 2020, 17 in 2019 and 13 in 2018.
• South Wales Police said 70 threat-to-life notices were handed out in 2021, compared to 97 in 2020, 90 in 2019 and 78 in 2018. They included 15 notices given to under-18s.
At least 177 threat-to-life warning notices have been issued to women across the UK since 2018, although only seven forces broke down their data on the number given to men and women.
What has the government said?
Mr Raab has suggested scrapping threat-to-life notices required by the Osman ruling in his proposed Bill of Rights, although there are reports it could be shelved by the government.
The justice secretary has said the warnings have “added considerable complexity and expense to ongoing policing operations” and people involved in serious crime are disproportionately more likely to receive them.
One force reported that up to 75% of all threat-to-life notices may be issued to serious criminals or gangs, he added.
An MoJ spokesperson told Sky News: “The ‘Osman ruling’ has led to police using precious resources to protect murderous gangs from death threats against each other, at the expense of priorities like catching burglars and sending more rapists to prison.
“The Bill of Rights will give experienced police officers greater flexibility to allocate resources based on their professional judgement, rather than because of the threat of legal action.”
It is understood the MoJ has concerns that “threat to life” operations take up a substantial amount of police time and deprive forces of the ability to take their own decisions about where to allocate resources.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council did not respond when contacted by Sky News but has previously said threat-to-life warnings have proven “highly effective in the overwhelming majority of cases”.