Commentary on Political Economy

Wednesday 14 February 2024



Judge who let terror offence trio walk free ‘liked’ anti-Israel post

Critics are calling for a review of Tan Ikram’s sentencing of the women who displayed a parachute image at a Gaza march
Judge Tan Ikram was criticised by Jewish groups for letting three women off “scot-free” after opting not to sentence them
Judge Tan Ikram was criticised by Jewish groups for letting three women off “scot-free” after opting not to sentence them OLIVER DIXON /THE SUN
Ben Ellery
, Crime Editor |
Jonathan Ames
, Legal Editor |
Chris Smyth
, Whitehall Editor
The Times

The judge who “decided not to punish” three women displaying parachute images at a protest had recently liked a social media post branding Israel a “terrorist” and calling for a “free Palestine”.

Three weeks ago Tan Ikram, 58, the deputy senior district judge, liked the LinkedIn post by a barrister who had previously promoted conspiracy theories claiming that Israel allowed the October 7 attack.

Ikram, who told the women in court that he had decided not to punish them, may now face disciplinary action after judicial guidance issued last year stated that judges known to have strong views should consider whether to hear a case.

On Wednesday senior legal figures including a former home secretary and a Jewish campaign group criticised Ikram and called for a review of the sentencing.

Downing Street said that it had referred the case to the attorney-general, describing the sentencing decision as “deeply troubling”. A source said: “Serious questions are being raised in government on how a judge posting this online was able to preside over this landmark case and what this means for the sentencing decision.”


On Tuesday Heba Alhayek, 29, Pauline Ankunda, 26, and Noimutu Olayinka Taiwo, 27, were found guilty of an offence under the Terrorism Act after displaying images of a paraglider at a protest in central London seven days after the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel.

Some of the terrorists in that attack flew over the border wall into Israel on paramotors, a kind of motorised paraglider. The militants killed 1,200 Israelis that day.

Women guilty of terror offence over parachute image at pro-Palestinian march

Ikram, who has a CBE and is on the judicial appointments committee, gave each of the women a 12-month conditional discharge, meaning that they could face a prison sentence if they commit a crime within the year.

Under maximum magistrates’ court custodial sentencing guidelines for the offence of carrying an article supporting a proscribed terrorist organisation, they could have received a six-month jail term.

The paraglider images were deemed to constitute articles supporting a proscribed terrorist organisation
The paraglider images were deemed to constitute articles supporting a proscribed terrorist organisation

After the sentence, the Jewish Leadership Council said that the women had got off “scot-free”.

Judge Ikram told the women: “Each of you stands convicted of a terrorist offence. There is nothing to suggest the police of their own volition were going to take any action. You’ve not hidden the fact you were carrying these images. You crossed the line, but it would have been fair to say that emotions ran very high on this issue.

“Your lesson has been well learnt. I do not find you were seeking to show any support for Hamas.”

Alhayek and Ankunda stuck images resembling paragliders to their backs while Olayinka Taiwo displayed the image on a placard. Lawyers for the women argued that the images were actually a “cartoon parachute” used as a “symbol of peace”.

Ikram liked Sham Uddin’s LinkedIn post
Ikram liked Sham Uddin’s LinkedIn post


The post which was liked by Ikram stated: “Free Free Palestine. To the Israeli terrorist both in the United Kingdom, the United States, and of course Israel you can run, you can bomb but you cannot hide — justice will be coming for you.”

It was posted by Sham Uddin, a barrister who is standing to be an independent MP in east London and has made a series of anti-Israeli posts, including an October 7 conspiracy theory that Israel knowingly allowed the attacks to take place to “expel” Palestinians.

According to social media guidance to the judiciary, judges should “be aware that you can convey information about yourself and your views by … liking posts”.

In December, Ikram gave six retired Metropolitan Police officers suspended sentences and community service for racist messages sent in a private WhatsApp group chat.

Lord Wolfson KC, a former justice minister, said: “Of course judges, like the rest of us, have political opinions. But the longstanding practice of the judiciary was to keep those opinions private, at least for so long as the judge continued to sit.

“In an age of social media, where it is so easy to ‘like’ politically controversial posts, that practice seems all the wiser, both to ensure that justice is done, and also — which is as important — that justice is seen to be done.”

Suella Braverman KC, a former home secretary and attorney-general, said: “I am shocked and deeply concerned at these findings. We must have confidence that judges are impartial and act in the interests of justice at all times. This raises serious questions about the sentencing of these despicable criminals and there must be an immediate review.”


Robert Buckland KC, a former justice secretary and lord chancellor, said: “It is vital for the rule of law that our judges and tribunals are free of any actual or perceived bias. It would have been better for the district judge not to have expressed public political views in the first place but then to have recused himself from the case because of his publicly expressed views.”

Claudia Mendoza, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “In the aftermath of the barbaric Hamas terror attack, it was clear what those images meant. The woefully inadequate sentence and accompanying remarks from the judge were extremely surprising.

“It is deeply worrying, and revealing, that this judge could have considered it right to hear the case himself given his previous public stance on this issue. The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office should immediately investigate.”

The women were prosecuted under offences in the Terrorism Act 2000, which could be tried either in a magistrates’ court or the crown court. As such, the attorney-general could refer the sentences to the Court of Appeal under the unduly lenient scheme.

A spokeswoman for the lady chief justice, who oversees all judges in England and Wales, had no comment on the revelation.

In a statement issued by the Judicial Office press office, Ikram said: “I didn’t know that I’d liked that post. If I did then it was a genuine mistake.”

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