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Minimum 14-year jail terms for most dangerous terror offenders outlined by Government

03 August 2020

THE COUNTER-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill marks the largest overhaul of terrorist sentencing and monitoring in decades. Terrorists now face a minimum of 14 years behind bars for serious offences as well as tougher monitoring as a new Bill enters the Houses of Parliament.

The Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill will end early release for terror offenders who receive Extended Determinate Sentences, where the maximum penalty was life, and force them to serve their whole term behind bars.

The Bill will also see the most dangerous offenders - ie those found guilty of serious terror offences such as the worst examples of preparing acts of terrorism - handed a minimum 14-year prison term and up to 25 years on licence.

Robert Buckland QC (pictured), the Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, said: “Terrorists and their hateful ideologies have no place on our streets. They can now expect to go to prison for longer and face tougher controls on release. From introducing a 14-year minimum term in prison for the most dangerous offenders through to putting in place stricter monitoring measures, this Government is pursuing every option available to tackle the threat and keep our communities safe.”

The Bill will also allow the courts to consider if any serious offence is terror-related (for example, an offence involving firearms where there is a proven terrorist connection) and allow tougher sentences to be imposed. This would rule out any possibility of a serious terror offender being released automatically before the end of their sentence.

Key measures

Key measures outlined within the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill include:

*a new ‘Serious Terrorism Sentence’ for dangerous offenders with a 14-year minimum jail term and up to 25 years spent on licence

*ending early release for the most serious offenders who receive Extended Determinate Sentences (instead, the whole time will be served in custody)

*increasing the maximum penalty from ten to 14 years for a number of terror offences, including membership of a proscribed organisation

*ensuring a minimum period of 12 months on licence for all terror offenders as well as requiring adult offenders to take polygraph tests

*widening the list of offences that can be classed as terror-related to absolutely ensure they carry tougher sentences

*boosting the monitoring and disruption tools available to the security services and counter-terrorism police by strengthening Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures and supporting the use of Serious Crime Prevention Orders in terrorism-related cases

Shocking attacks

Home Secretary Priti Patel (pictured) stated: “The shocking attacks at Fishmongers’ Hall and in Streatham revealed serious flaws in the way terrorist offenders are dealt with. We promised to act and we are delivering on that promise. Those who senselessly seek to damage and destroy lives need to know that we will do whatever it takes to stop them.”

The Bill follows on from emergency legislation passed in February which retrospectively ended automatic early release for terrorist offenders serving standard determinate sentences. This forced them to spend a minimum two-thirds of their term behind bars before being considered for release by the Parole Board.

It builds on recent Government action specifically designed to bolster the country’s response to terrorism and ensure that the UK has some of the strongest measures in the world to tackle the threat. That action includes:

*Counter-Terrorism Police funding being increased by £90 million for 2020-2021

*a review of support for the victims of terrorism, including an immediate £500,000 for the Victims of Terrorism Unit

*doubling the number of counter-terrorism specialist probation staff

*intensive national standards for managing terrorists on licence, meaning that more offenders will be sent to Approved Premises for longer after release, be subject to stricter monitoring and also electronically tagged to monitor their location

*more places being made available in probation hostels such that the authorities can keep closer tabs on terrorists in the weeks after their release from prison

*an independent review (led by Jonathan Hall QC) of the way in which different agencies investigate, monitor and manage terrorist offenders

In addition, a nationwide network of counter-terrorism specialists is now embedded throughout the prison and probation service and supported by the 29,000 dedicated staff who are specifically trained to spot the signs of extremism.