Letter - counter-terrorism and sentencing bill by Chris Philp MP

I am writing to inform you that the Government has today introduced the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill to the House of Commons. 

The Government acted swiftly to introduce the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction Of Early Release) Act following the terror attached at Fishmongers' Hall and in Streatham, which ended the automatic early release of terrorist offenders in England, Wales and Scotland, to protect the public. However, the Act was only the first stage of our legislative response to these attacks. We had already announced our intention to legislate to ensure terrorist offenders would spend longer in prison. The vital legislation we are introducing with the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill builds on the steps we took through the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act, strengthening every stage of the process of dealing with terrorist offenders across the UK, from sentencing and release through to managing risk in the community. 

  • A life sentence will of course continue to be the most severe penalty, but we are creating a new Serious Terrorism Sentence for terrorist offending that risked multipe deaths, but did not engage the option of a life sentence. This will be comprised of a 14-year minimum term to be served in full and a licence period from 7 years up to a maximum of 25 years. 
  • For serious terrorists whose offence is punishable with life imprisonment but who do not meet this threshold and instead receive an Extended Determinate Sentence, we are ending the prospect of early release.
  • We are also increasing the maximum licence period for an Extended Determinate Sentence to 10 years. 
  • The Bill will also make other updates to the sentencing framework and maximum penalties for terrorism offences. 
  • The Bill will further improve our ability to manage the risks posed by terrorist offenders when they are released through expanding the Sentence for Offenders of Particular Concern regime to include all terrorism offences in scope of the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act, ensuring a minimum period of supervision on licence for 12 months; and extending the application of mandatory polygraph testing to terrorist offenders aged over 18 on licence.
  • While terrorist offending by youths is rare, we also need to ensure that courts have the right range of tools at their disposal for children who commit serious terrorist or terrorism-related offences.  I recognise though that the purpose of sentencing and the sentencing framework are distinct for youth, which is why we have carefully determined which measures should apply to both adults and youths. 
  • The Bill will maximise the effectiveness of the existing disruptive tools available to operational partners, by strengthening Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures, supporting the use of Serious Crime Prevention Orders in terrorism cases, and adding offences to the Registered Terrorist Offender notification requirements regime. These changes strengthen our ability to manage the risk posed by those of terrorism concern.
  • To mitigate against any risk of a two-tier justice system for terrorist offenders in the UK, we will apply these measures UK-wide, which includes extending the provisions within the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act to Northern Ireland. 
  • Finally, following the Government’s decision to appoint the next Independent Reviewer of Prevent through a full and open competition, the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill includes a measure removing the existing statutory deadline for the Review, while maintaining the legislative commitment to undertake it. This is to ensure the new Reviewer has sufficient time to complete the Review. The Government is committed to the Independent Review of Prevent and aims for it to be completed alongside a Government response by August 2021.

Tragically, we know all too well the consequences when terrorists are released early automatically when they still pose a risk to the public, or when the arrangements to supervise them in the community are not sufficiently robust. The Government is confident that this comprehensive set of measures strengthens our hand at each of these stages and represents our determination to do everything in our power to protect the public.