Terror offender allowed to drive London bin lorries despite ban
Serco employed a terror offender to drive bin lorries despite a ban sparked by a series of deadly vehicle attacks, a court has heard. Andrew Rowe worked for the contractor in London and drove different vehicles more than 30 times before being arrested for breaching a court order. The court heard the 50-year-old had told a recruitment agency and Serco about his previous convictions, but concealed the vehicles he was driving from police.
He was jailed for 10 months on Thursday for breaching a terrorist notification order, which was updated in 2019 with an obligation to give police details of any vehicles he used. Rowe, of St Johns Wood in north west London, was the subject of a 15-year notification order after being freed from a 2005 prison sentence. He was originally imprisoned for being found with instructions for operating mortars after returning from jihadist battlegrounds in Bosnia, Chechnya and other countries.
Judge Angela Rafferty QC said notification requirements were of utmost importance to “keep the public safe”. Sentencing Rowe at the Old Bailey, she highlighted the “carnage” of attacks like in London Bridge, Westminster Bridge and Finsbury Park in which vehicles were used as weapons. “You, a terrorist offender, drove a heavy goods vehicle in this city without notifying the police you were doing so,” she told the defendant. “You put your own self interest above the notification requirements.”
Other released terror offenders have been subject to a ban on driving heavy vehicles including Usman Khan, who was refused permission to drive a dumper truck for a potential construction job in 2019. Months later, he murdered two victims in a terror attack at a rehabilitation event held at Fishmongers’ Hall. Rowe admitted nine breaches of his notification order, which came into effect after he was freed from prison in 2010.
Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack victims unlawfully killed, inquest jury rules The court heard that Rowe failed to tell police about the vehicles he was driving while employed by Serco as a rubbish collector in 2019. He had been notified of the requirement in March that year, but only told police he was looking for a job driving heavy goods vehicles in August.
Police then became aware he had obtained work with Serco via a recruitment agency, the court heard. Over two months, Rowe drove nine vehicles a total of 31 times as part of his work at Hammersmith and Fulham Council. Defence barrister Catherine Oborne said he had expressed a desire to “live a normal life and get back in society”.
“He was trying to do a decent job as a refuse collector,” she added. “That job did give him pride and dignity. “He was described as one of the best workers for Serco and they were considering offering him a full-time position rather than as agency staff.” On the risk of allowing a terror offender to drive a large vehicle, Ms Oborne added: “Of course there is a plain and obvious concern that the police would no doubt have about use of HGV lorries but there was no specific risk in respect or this defendant himself.
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“He was a defendant who had been released into the community for nine years and although convicted of other offences, he has not been convicted of any further terrorism offences or and further breach.”
The court heard Rowe did not want to live on benefits and had engaged with a painting and decorating course, and a university degree in international development and NGO management. Prosecutor Peter Ratliff said: “This defendant lost his job as a consequence of these proceedings.” Rowe, a former drug dealer who converted to Islam in the 1990s, travelled to several warzones and is believed to have joined jihadist groups.
He was arrested on the French side of the Channel Tunnel in 2003, while trying to return to the UK, carrying socks bearing traces of high explosives that prosecuors said could be from cleaning mortars and weapons.
In 2019, he admitted benefits fraud after receiving more than GBP5,000 in Jobseekers’ Allowance while working.
Additional reporting by PA
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