Streatham Incident

– in the House of Commons at 5:08 pm on 3rd February 2020.

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Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice 5:08 pm, 3rd February 2020

With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will make a statement about the senseless and horrific terror attack in Streatham yesterday afternoon.

Two members of the public were brutally stabbed as they went about their business on the busy high street. Another was injured as our brave police stepped in before even more harm could be done. I am sure that Members will join me in sending our thoughts and prayers to the victims, their families, and all those affected by this appalling attack. I would also like to pay tribute to our outstanding emergency services, who once again ran towards untold danger to protect the public: the police who shot the offender to save others, and the ambulance staff who fearlessly tended the wounded, despite the risk to their own lives.

Protecting the public has to be the No. 1 priority for this Government. The Streatham incident is subject to an ongoing police investigation, and I am therefore limited in what I can say at this time, but I would like to share what details I am able to with the House. A known terrorist senselessly stabbed a man and a woman on Streatham High Road at about 2 pm yesterday. The attacker has yet to be formally identified but the police are confident that it was 20-year-old Sudesh Amman. In December 2018, he was imprisoned for three years and four months for 16 counts of distributing extremist material and for the possession of material likely to be useful for the purposes of preparing a terrorist act. The sentence he received was a standard determinate sentence, and that meant that one week ago he was automatically released halfway through that term. The Parole Board had no involvement in the matter. The law required automatic unconditional release at the halfway point.

Amman was being followed by armed police officers when he made his attack, and they immediately shot him dead before he could harm any others. They stepped in despite the fact that he appeared to be wearing an explosive device, which has now been confirmed as fake. A female member of the public in her 20s was hurt by broken glass as shots were fired to end the threat. She remains in hospital, as does the male victim, who is in his 40s. I am pleased to say that he is now recovering after initially fighting for his life. The other female victim, who is in her 50s, has since been discharged. Our thoughts are with them all. As this is an ongoing investigation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on the case while the full facts are being established, but I would like to reassure hon. Members that our outstanding security services and the police have the full support of the Government as they investigate this atrocity.

I also want to talk about our security services, police, and prison and probation officers, and about their joint response. All these operational agencies are truly first-class. They are the epitome of public duty. The swift response to yesterday’s attack, monitoring the threat and responding quickly when it escalated, can give us confidence that the police and security services are doing all they can to keep the public safe. Our Prison Service and probation service have robust measures in place to deal with terrorist offenders, and we are at the forefront of international efforts to counter this threat.

All terrorist prisoners and individuals who are considered to be an extremist risk are managed through a specialist case management process. Most can be dealt with as part of the mainstream prison population, but where necessary, a small number of the highest-risk offenders are now managed in separation centres. The time an offender spends in prison is an opportunity for us to do our best to rehabilitate them, while recognising that this is no simple challenge. Psychological, theological and mental health interventions are all used, and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service psychologists supply two formal counter-radicalisation programmes, used both in custody and in the community. In addition, the desistance and disengagement programme was rolled out in prisons in 2018. It provides a range of intensive tailored interventions designed to address the root causes of terrorism. I want to pay tribute to the work of our prison and probation staff. They are dedicated to keeping the public safe, and they work tirelessly to try to turn lives around, even in the face of such a deep-seated ideology.

The tragic events at Fishmongers’ Hall in November last year showed that we need to look carefully at the way we deal with terrorist offenders, and I have long been clear, as has my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that automatic halfway release is simply not right in all cases. After the London Bridge attack, the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and I immediately promised a major shake-up of our response to terrorism and, two weeks ago, the Home Secretary and I announced clear measures, a tough new approach, and a new commitment to crack down on offenders and to keep people safe.

First, we will introduce longer and tougher sentences for serious terrorist offenders, ending release before the end of their custodial term, and opening up longer licence periods while keeping the worst offenders locked up for a mandatory minimum 14-year term. Secondly, we will overhaul prisons and probation, with tougher monitoring conditions, including lie detector tests to assess risk. Thirdly, we will double the number of counter-terrorism probation officers and invest in counter-terrorism police, providing an increase in funding of £90 million from this April. Finally, we will put victims first by reviewing the support available to them, including an immediate £500,000 boost for the victims of terrorism unit.

We have also announced an independent review of our multi-agency public protection arrangements, to be led by Jonathan Hall, QC. The review will look at pre-release planning and the management of offenders upon release into the community. Many of the measures will be included in a new counter-terrorism, sentencing and release Bill to be introduced in the first 100 days of this re-elected Government.

Yesterday’s appalling incident plainly makes the case for immediate action. We cannot have a situation, as we saw tragically yesterday, in which an offender—a known risk to innocent members of the public—is released early by automatic process of law without any oversight by the Parole Board. We will be doing everything we can to protect the public. That is our primary duty. We will therefore introduce emergency legislation to ensure an end to terrorist offenders getting released automatically with no check or review having served half their sentence. The underlying principle must be that offenders will no longer be released early automatically and that anyone released before the end of their sentence will be dependent on a risk assessment by the Parole Board.

We face an unprecedented situation of severe gravity and, as such, it demands that the Government response immediately, and that this legislation will therefore also apply to serving prisoners. The earliest point at which these offenders will now be considered for release will be once they have served two thirds of their sentence, and crucially, we will introduce a requirement that no terrorist offender will be released before the end of their full custodial term unless the Parole Board agrees. We will ensure that the functions of the Parole Board are strengthened to deal even more effectively with the specific risk that terrorists pose to public safety. For example, we will ensure that the appropriate specialisms are in place. That work is in train, and we will take steps to implement it as soon as possible.

When terrorist offenders are released, we will always ensure that they are subject to the most robust safeguards, and we will consider whether new legislation is required to provide additional assurance. We will also review whether the current maximum penalties and sentencing framework for terrorist offences is sufficient or comprehensive, on the underlying principle that terrorist offenders should no longer be released until the Parole Board is satisfied that they are no longer a risk to the public.

As I said, Madam Deputy Speaker, keeping our streets and our people safe is our first duty. We face a threat from an ideology that takes no heed of others, and we must use every tool we can to make sure that that threat is neutralised. The British public have a proud history of coming together in times of adversity against those who seek to divide us, and it is together that we can make sure that the terrorists who seek to threaten our way of life will never win. The Government will do everything in our power to defeat them and to ensure that the public are protected. I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Richard Burgon Richard Burgon Shadow Lord Chancellor and Shadow Secretary of State for Justice 5:19 pm, 3rd February 2020

I had sight of the Secretary of State’s statement only 20 minutes before he started speaking. That left me in the unacceptable position of having to prepare my statement about such a serious matter on the basis of press briefings.

I begin by saying that my thoughts are with the people attacked yesterday, their families and the people of Streatham, who witnessed this absolutely horrific attack. I also pay tribute to our police and emergency services for the professionalism and courage that they demonstrated in their swift response to the attack.

The first responsibility of a Government is to keep their citizens safe. Tragically, cuts over the past decade across our justice system—to the police, prisons, probation and the Crown Prosecution Service—have left our communities less safe. That is why our justice system is in crisis.

It will take time, of course, for the full facts about yesterday’s terrible attack to come out. We owe it to those affected to carefully assess what happened and take the action necessary to reduce the risk of similar attacks happening again. Experts have raised serious concerns about the impact of austerity on the Government’s programmes for dealing with terrorism offenders. A former CPS chief prosecutor for north-west England described those programmes today as “largely underfunded” and “poorly executed”. Does the Secretary of State agree with that assessment? What is being done to address the situation?

I turn to prisons. This is the second such attack carried out by a recently released prisoner in recent months. How many of the recommendations from the 2016 review into extremism in prisons have been implemented? Huge cuts to prison budgets have not only left our prisons with more than 2,000 fewer officers than in 2010; they have also led to an exodus of experienced staff, involving the loss of tens of thousands of years of experience. That experience is vital in maintaining safety and order in prisons and, crucially, in identifying and dealing with radicalisation.

Figures that I obtained last year show that the picture in high-security prisons is even worse, with over 400 fewer prison officers in such prisons compared with the figure for 2010. Does the Secretary of State believe that those cuts to staffing levels have made it more difficult to monitor people convicted of terror offences in prisons? The same figures revealed that Belmarsh, where the Streatham attacker was held until his release last week, has a staggering 100 fewer prison officers than it did back in 2010. By what date will the Government return all high-security prison staffing numbers to 2010 levels?

Sadly, the problems in our criminal justice system are not limited to prisons. Probation manages hundreds of thousands of offenders released from prison. All but a handful of the most dangerous prisoners will at some point leave prison. Probation has a vital role to play in keeping our communities safe. The Government’s decision to break up our probation system, alongside the decision to outsource the monitoring of some of the most dangerous offenders in bail hostels, has left the public at higher risk. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the consequences of the failed probation reforms for the monitoring of those convicted of terror offences?

Finally, I turn to sentencing. Judges can ensure that the most dangerous offenders are not released halfway through their sentence and that instead they serve a minimum of two thirds, and are released then only if the Parole Board determines that it is safe for that to happen. We will look at the proposals referred to in the Secretary of State’s statement, because our priority must be to keep the public safe. But to be clear, the Government cannot use sentencing as a way of distracting from their record of bringing the criminal justice system to breaking point.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making his points, and I will do my very best to answer them all. On his last point, about sentencing, he is right to make reference to the extended determinate sentence system—but that, of course, depends on the learned judge making a finding of dangerousness. In this particular case, that option was open to the court, but the court decided not to take it, which is why the term was a standard determinate one. More needs to be done on the framework, to make sure that it does not depend on the need to make such a finding and that we can end automaticity when it comes to early release. I very much hope that the hon. Gentleman and his party would support that approach when it comes to the necessary legislation.

The hon. Gentleman makes observations more generally about the justice system. I remind him that the responsibility for the supervision of serious offenders has always lain with the National Probation Service, which remained within the hands of the state. I reassure him that the reforms to probation that I am driving forward mean we will bring together all the arms of the probation service in a way that will leader to greater co-ordination, a better spread of casework for probation officers and improved purchase on the regime, which needs to be applied. We are actively recruiting more probation officers.

Ian Acheson made his report in 2016, and eight of the 11 consolidated recommendations were adopted, with disagreement on three of them. I commend the work that he and others did. Things have moved on considerably since that point, and it is right for me to emphasise the joint working the Home Office, my Department and the security services do to make sure we are all working together to monitor not just offenders of this nature in the community, but terrorist offenders in prison. Other countries are learning from that experience.

The hon. Gentleman made the general remarks about the justice system that we hear from him regularly, so I simply remind him of the choices we had to make at the beginning of the last decade, the difficulty we were placed in and the fact that we are increasing counter-terrorism funding and bearing down on the risk we face. There has never been any question, at any time during the Conservative Government’s period in power, that we have prioritised resources over the need to protect the public. We will continue to put public protection at the centre of our deliberations, irrespective of the cost.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. It will be obvious that a great many people wish to take part in this statement. For the benefit of new Members and others, let me say that a statement is not an occasion for making a speech. I must insist on brief questions. Each Member has the chance to ask one question, not to give a preamble and then ask an “Oh, and also” question. We must have just one question, otherwise we will not get through everyone and those who are not called could be angry with those who have been called and taken too long.

Photo of Bob Neill Bob Neill Chair, Justice Committee, Chair, Justice Committee

I welcome the Lord Chancellor’s approach to this, because most of us recognise that the exceptional nature of this threat may require exceptional measures. However, can he help us as to precisely which rehabilitation measures the perpetrator of this attack was subject to while in prison? Will he consider again the remaining aspects of the Acheson review regarding much more assertive management of these particularly complex and dangerous prisoners within the system, from the start of their sentence?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, the Chair of the Select Committee on Justice. It would perhaps be wrong of me to go into specific detail as to the regimen that applied in prison to this offender. I would make the general observation that the terrorist cohort is complex and difficult to assess, and if there is not engagement by individuals with the programmes on offer, the assessment of risk becomes a much more complicated exercise. I simply say that bearing in mind the exceptional nature of the terrorist cohort, exceptional approaches are needed.

Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

May I start by extending my sympathies and those of the Scottish National party to those injured and terrorised by yesterday’s events, and by praising the security and emergency services? I am pleased that the UK Government are following the Scottish Government’s lead in ending automatic early release for the most serious offenders. The Lord Chancellor has said that he intends to introduce emergency legislation, making retrospective provision in relation to those sentenced before the law was changed. Will he assure me that the usual legal difficulties with retrospective legislation have been addressed to his satisfaction?

Sentencing is only a small part of the answer to terrorism, and what happens during the sentence is what matters. To date, deradicalisation and disengagement programmes have been largely “unfunded and poorly executed”. Those are not my views, but the views of Nazir Afzal, the former chief Crown prosecutor for the north-west of England, an experienced lawyer and a prosecutor worth listening to. He says that that has happened as a direct consequence of the decision by successive Tory Governments to cut funding to probation and other rehabilitation programmes. Of course, the costs of the sort of post-release police surveillance that we saw yesterday far outweigh the costs of adequate funding for preventive measures and deradicalisation. Does the Lord Chancellor agree with me and Nazir Afzal on that? Will he assure the House that in future sufficient funds and resources will be made available to deal with preventive and deradicalisation programmes in prison?

Finally, it was reported earlier today that an anonymous No. 10 source told Sky News that the system for dealing with terrorism has significant problems because of

“the shocking influence of lawyers on policy”.

I imagine that the Lord Chancellor does not share that view—[Laughter.] This is important. Will he join me in condemning those sorts of anonymous briefings? Does he agree that there is plenty of room to introduce robust anti-terrorism policies that are rule-of-law compliant?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady for her remarks about the solidarity that we have across these islands with regard to terrorism.

Let me deal with her last point first. It is important to remember that we in this country stand for the rule of law and due process. That is what marks us out as different from those who rely on the bullet and the bomb—those who use indiscriminate and arbitrary means and methods to impose their will on us. If we stand for nothing else, we have to stand for the rule of law. That makes us better than them, it makes us different and it means that we have something worth defending. I hope that answers the hon. and learned Lady’s latter question.

On the first issue that the hon. and learned Lady raised, as I said, this is an exceptional situation. The issue of retrospective effect is of course a key factor. The important point is that we are talking about the administration of a sentence—the way it is dealt with, as opposed to its length or type. For that reason, it is entirely appropriate to look at the administration of a sentence and I would regard that as a reasonable approach.

The hon. and learned Lady asked about resources. I am happy to tell her that in the past several years, counter-terrorism funding has increased year on year. I repeat the point that I made to Richard Burgon: resources will never get in the way of our dealing properly and robustly with those who pose a threat to us. The way in which we deal with terrorism continues to evolve, and programmes change and adapt according to the knowledge that we accrue. I will not pretend that we are in a state of grace when it comes to these things, because we are still learning, but make no mistake about it: this country is a world leader and many other states look to us as a beacon because of the way we deal with counter-terrorism and the particular threat that it poses.

Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Conservative, Old Bexley and Sidcup

My right hon. and learned Friend is right to underline the fact that the thoughts of the House remain with those affected by this shocking incident, and to commend the work of our police and security services. He has underlined the decisive action that he intends to take in respect of the halfway-point issue, and I commend him on that. Will he look at the issue firmly post the release of offenders and the potential availability of measures such as terrorism prevention and investigation measures to provide the level of safeguard and control necessary to assure the public that if there is risk, it can be managed effectively?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My right hon. Friend served with distinction as the Security Minister. Indeed, I remember sitting with him in the Bill Committee on the TPIMs legislation some years ago. He and I understand that a distinction is to be drawn between the sentencing process and that particular mechanism, but there is no doubt that there is merit in what he says about the way in which we need to make sure that those who pose a continuing risk are adequately monitored. I will consider his remarks very carefully indeed.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I join the Lord Chancellor in his tribute to the Security Service and the police, who work so hard on this issue. He is right to address the concerns relating to sentencing and parole, to ensure that dangerous terrorists and extremists who continue to pose a risk to the public are not released early, but he will know that the problem is not solved if it is just deferred to the end of the sentence. He will know that there have been considerable warnings about these risks, and that Ian Acheson has expressed considerable concern that the recommendations in his review have not been fully implemented. What is the Lord Chancellor’s assessment of the 69 recommendations that Ian Acheson made, and how many of them have been implemented?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady, the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, for her question. The Acheson recommendations were, with his agreement, consolidated into 11 particular measures, of which eight were accepted by the Government, and three were disagreed with. Having paid tribute to Ian Acheson and to the work that he did, and indeed to his continuing input into this important area, I think it is right to say that, since 2016, a lot has developed with regard to how we manage offenders. Indeed, the particular separation units that were recommended have been set up. The criteria for the use of those units obviously have to be carefully monitored so that we are not using them in an arbitrary way. At the same time, I am proud of the facilities at Belmarsh and Whitemoor, which I saw when I visited them myself. I know about the particular criteria that are applied in separation units and the intensive work that goes on. She and I know that this is a very difficult cohort: there are some who superficially comply and yet harbour their hatreds even beyond release; and there are others who are capable of rehabilitation. What we are talking about is more than just punishment. The watchword has to be public protection. Are we doing everything that we can to keep our streets safe? If we are not, then we need to do more. Hence today’s statement.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

My constituent, Liam Taylor, was 19 years old. He and two others were stabbed on Friday night. It was not a terrorist attack, but it was a terrible attack and Liam died at the scene. My thoughts are with his family, and my thanks go to Essex police. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, when it comes to tackling knife crime, whether committed by a terrorist or otherwise, our police, our prisons, and our justice system must have all the resources they need?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

May I join my hon. Friend in her tribute to everybody who did their utmost to try to save a life in what was a terrible tragic incident in her constituency? Sadly, it is an incident that is repeated far too often, and the scourge of knife crime is something that I think all of us in this House will have been touched by. The causes of it are complex. Some of the reasons are ones that we well understand—county lines, exploitation, and the use of knives as an enforcement weapon—but there are other reasons as well that we also need to understand. That is why I pay tribute to organisations such as the Ben Kinsella Trust and all those charities and groups that work so hard to educate young people about the dangers of knife crime. If I hear again the phrase, “I carry a knife for my own protection”, I think that I will scream. In so many cases that I have dealt with, that has been the cause of so much misery, injury and death.

Photo of Bell Ribeiro-Addy Bell Ribeiro-Addy Labour, Streatham

The people of Streatham, as resilient and as united as they are, remain shaken by what happened yesterday. We are very grateful to the emergency services for their swift response and for the fact that they saved many lives. The Minister says that we are at the forefront of tackling terrorism and that we have robust measures in place, but those measures did not prevent what happened in my constituency yesterday. Although I note what he says about automatic release, the people of Streatham cannot fathom a situation in which somebody so dangerous who has to be under surveillance immediately after leaving prison is allowed to leave. Will the Minister assure me, and assure the people of Streatham, that there is no circumstance—no measure that could have been taken—that would have stopped this individual from being released from prison?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. She is representing her constituents fearlessly and well. I join her in the tribute to the people of Streatham who experienced not just the immediate horror, but the long aftermath of this terrible incident. I can assure her that the law had to apply in this case. This is the law that had been changed in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which allowed automatic early release, and which meant that the Parole Board was not involved. There was no risk assessment as a prerequisite of release and therefore the automatic element of it meant that the particular situation that she described so well applied. It is something that I do not accept, which is why I have announced today that I will act and will deal with it in the form of emergency legislation, because I want to protect the public, the people of Streatham and the people of all our communities in our country. I thank the hon. Lady for her comments.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

I strongly welcome the remarks and actions of my right hon. and learned Friend. The root of this often lies in radicalisation at schools, colleges and universities. We have the Prevent programme, but what assessment has he made of that programme, and are there any plans to strengthen it in our education system?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, the Chair of the Select Committee on Education. He will be reassured that the Prevent programme is under constant examination and review. The nature of the threat continues to change, and in this case and at Fishmongers Hall we see individuals arming themselves with knives in a very random way. That is a new aspect of behaviour that we need to understand fully. The short answer is yes, we will continue to redouble our efforts to make sure that we reach all those young people who are particularly vulnerable to this type of exploitation, and of being sucked into extremism and worse.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. We have to have much shorter questions and answers. I appreciate that the Lord Chancellor is explaining complicated and important matters, but he has explained a lot of them, so we need short questions and short answers, otherwise most people will not have a chance at all. I call Dame Diana Johnson.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North

With No. 10 briefing on some of the terrible decisions that have been made in the past 15 years on counter-terrorism policy, does the Lord Chancellor believe that the introduction of the regime of terrorism prevention and investigation measures, which weakened the control order regime that had been in place, was one of those terrible decisions?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The hon. Lady will remember the legal morass that we got into with control orders—it was not a happy experience—which faced constant challenge in the courts. Their effectiveness was undermined, I am afraid, and it was essential that we took measures to make sure that we had a regime that was invulnerable to such challenge and which would be sustainable. That is why the changes were made. The hon. Lady is somewhat misrepresenting the position, if I may say so.

Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Conservative, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

When might we see the emergency legislation of which my right hon. and learned Friend speaks?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I am not going to begin prejudging what the business managers might have in mind or, indeed, the allocation of time in the House, but as soon as possible.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

In response to my hon. Friend Bell Ribeiro-Addy, the Minister said that he would look at further legislation, but she hit the nail on the head. This man was released from prison, and immediately followed by armed police. The Minister seems to have ruled out control orders, so what will be in the emergency legislation that means that that risk cannot happen again? If this man was so dangerous why was he let out?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I do not know whether the hon. Lady, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, heard what I said. The purpose of the emergency legislation is to end automatic early release at the halfway point. That will apply to serving prisoners, which is why I want to introduce emergency legislation, which will be introduced as soon as possible. That ends the automaticity element, which was the reason why this individual, who posed a risk, was released. There was nothing more that we could do, because the law, as passed by the previous Labour Government, was what we had to apply. That is what we are going to do, and I am more than happy to explain it further to the hon. Lady later.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Conservative, New Forest East

How seriously should we take the recent report that one of Lee Rigby’s killers claims to be a reformed character?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I have not seen that report. It is a matter for those responsible for the assessment of risk within the custodial estate to look at the evidence, to professionally assess it and to understand the particularly unique risks posed by the terrorist cohort. I think the thrust of my right hon. Friend’s question was precisely on that point, and it is well understood.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

I welcome the Lord Chancellor’s plans for temporary emergency legislation, but surely he was aware of this problem as early as last October. Why did he not incorporate measures in the draft Release of Prisoners (Alteration of Relevant Proportion of Sentence) Order 2019, which we debated only six days ago?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The hon. Gentleman would obviously advocate a counsel of perfection. I am dealing with serious violent and sexual offenders—[Interruption.] No, I am sorry but I will not accept that; a lot of the offenders who commit terrorist-related offences are covered by the statutory instrument that was passed last week. We are now dealing with all terrorists and terrorist-related offenders. After every serious incident, it is our duty to assess the level of risk and to look at the situation before us.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The hon. Gentleman can shake his head as much as he likes, but I am totally clear that we need to act quickly. That is why we are going to introduce emergency legislation, and I am sure he will support us in the Lobby.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings

During my time at the Home Office, I introduced the Prevent duty so I am well aware of the importance of managing these matters before people are convicted, during incarceration and on release. However, sentencing matters. The Lord Chancellor has mentioned ending early release and increasing mandatory sentences. Will he also urgently consider imposing tougher minimum sentences?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My right hon. Friend, as a former Security Minister, is indeed very familiar with these issues, and he and I worked together on them during the passage of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. I reassure him that a mandatory minimum sentence of 14 years for serious terrorist offences will be part of our proposals in the counter-terrorism Bill, and I am sure that he will vigorously support that legislation when it comes to be debated in the House.

Photo of Daisy Cooper Daisy Cooper Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

The fact is that this attacker should not have been released from prison automatically. The law requiring automatic release is wrong, and it is right that we are now going to fix it, but that in itself is not enough. Whether people are locked up for two years, five years, 10 years or more, there is a very grave risk that people will come out of prison more dangerous than when they went in because our prisons are in crisis. What actions will the Minister take to ensure that all criminals, but especially high-risk terrorists, do not come out of prison more dangerous than when they went in?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I welcome the hon. Lady’s support for the measures that we are going to introduce. She is absolutely right about the need to end automatic early release. I assure her that we use a range of engagement programmes to deal with this violent and dangerous cohort of people. These engagement programmes are of various natures, and are designed to meet the particular demands that such individuals can pose. However, the programmes do require engagement. Where there is engagement, we can achieve results, but we also need to be mindful of the dangers of superficial compliance. That is why this particular cohort is difficult, challenging and tough, and requires an unprecedented response.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

Will the Minister give me an assurance that the legislation will be fully retrospective, notwithstanding article 7 of the European convention on human rights—he knows what I am saying—and, furthermore, that it will be good law, and that if Parliament clearly and expressly makes it clear that it intends such legislation to be retrospective, the courts, despite their reluctance, will give effect to it?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to remind us of the powers of Parliament in that respect, and, indeed, of the role of the Law Officers in giving consent to legislation that has retrospective effect. I remind the House that this is all about the administration of sentences, rather than their actual length or type. That is why I judge it appropriate in these unprecedented circumstances to introduce this legislation. I will discuss the details of the matters he raises with him when the legislation is introduced.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

I have no problem in supporting stopping early release, but the Secretary of State is aware that there are individuals who, no matter how much rehabilitation we do, will come out still dangerous. When, in the last Parliament, the Intelligence and Security Committee took evidence on the Westminster Bridge attack, the security services raised with the Committee concern about 38, I think, individuals who would be released in the next two years and considered as dangerous. Was this individual one of them? I suspect that he was if he was being followed by an MI5 team. What are we going to do in terms of protecting the public from these individuals, because they will come out anyway after a certain period, early release or not? If the Government did know about this individual beforehand, why did they not intercede beforehand, because I know that the Security Service has real, serious concerns about these people on quite short sentences?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I pay tribute to the work of the right. hon. Gentleman on that Committee. He will know that it would be invidious of me to descend into the particular circumstances of this individual case, as the investigation is ongoing, but he raises a valid point about the monitoring of offenders post sentence and post licence. That is why I am looking very carefully to see what can be done in the provisions of the new counter-terrorism Bill to extend the purchase of the licence system to elongate licences so that we have that formal system as part of the sentence. The right hon. Gentleman also echoes the point made by my right hon. Friend James Brokenshire on whether more can be done with regard to a particular regime that could be applied. These are difficult questions, but I am sure that he and I will engage upon them in the weeks ahead.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. I cannot make the clock go slower. I tried to make people speak faster, but that does not seem to work. We have five minutes left and not everyone is going to get a chance. Let us go a little bit faster and see who we can get in.

Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight

Is there a case for greater isolation of extremists from the general prison population while in prison, or does the Secretary of State think we have the balance right?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My hon. Friend asks a pertinent question. I think that the individual offender needs to be assessed. There will be times when isolation is absolutely the right thing to do, but there is always a danger that by isolating prisoners of this nature together we could create further colleges of extremism. We therefore need to get the balance right. I think we are, but we constantly keep it under review.

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Labour, Wolverhampton South East

I want to return to the question from my hon. Friend Dame Diana Johnson. Does the Secretary of State not accept that it was a mistake to weaken the control order regime and replace it with a weaker system of supervision—a decision taken not through judicial necessity but through a political deal between the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats? Will he now review that decision in the light of the recent incidents?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman asked me that question because it allows me to develop part two of the point. He will have noticed in the years since the debate on TPIMs a welcome increase in the number of prosecutions for offences of terrorism. I have always believed, as I think he does, that the best way to deal with this type of offender is prosecution. The number of returning foreign fighters who have been prosecuted—I personally granted consent to a large number of prosecutions when I was Solicitor General—means that we have had an increasing number of that cohort in our prisons. It is as a result of conviction that they are on sentences, rather than part of that control order regime. I am afraid that he is choosing to ignore this point: it was a system that we had to change and I do not think it was the wrong thing to do.

Photo of Suella Braverman Suella Braverman Conservative, Fareham

When I was Treasury counsel, I acted for the Government in various parole cases in which the Human Rights Act 1998 was often a feature. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that strained interpretations of the Human Rights Act have served to undermine the delicate balance of rights versus responsibility, and that we now need an approach that means that national security and public safety will never be jeopardised?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My hon. Friend speaks with considerable experience. Human rights are there to protect us all. They should never be a means of enhancing the rights of those who would wish us ill. Therefore, while it is important that we have that underpinning framework, we must make sure that the balance is always struck in the interests of the protection of the public when it comes to serious violent and terrorist offenders.

Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Labour/Co-operative, Vauxhall

The Lord Chancellor mentioned that he wants to protect the public and protect the people of Streatham. Is he aware that, on the back of some terrorist-related incidents, we see a spike in hate crime? On 1 January 2020, the North Brixton Islamic Cultural Centre in my constituency had an anti-Islamic hate slogan graffitied on the wall, and a number of our Muslim communities are now feeling quite scared about reprisals. Does he agree that all our communities have the right to go about their daily lives without any fear of physical or verbal abuse? Will he ensure that any consideration of new legislation will provide that additional reassurance for all our constituents?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The hon. Lady raises a pertinent point, because it allows me to remind the House that we are dealing not just with so-called Islamic terrorism but with far-right terrorism. About a sixth of the cohort in our prisons are far-right extremists. That is a problem that we readily knowledge. We must face up to it and be honest about it. I absolutely condemn attacks on mosques or places of worship to do with that great religion, because hate crime has no place in our society. I will continue in my current role, as I did as a Law Officer, to do all I can to promote the need to stamp out hate crime in all its insidious forms.

Photo of Alicia Kearns Alicia Kearns Conservative, Rutland and Melton

Radicalisation does not end at the end of a prison sentence, so will the Lord Chancellor commit to working for better co-operation between MAPPA and Prevent co-ordinators, because that will help to minimise the risk of convicted terrorists to all our communities?

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

My hon. Friend will be glad to know that as part of our measures announced several weeks ago, a review of the MAPPA provisions has been announced. It will be led by Jonathan Hall, Queen’s Counsel, and one of the issues that will be looked at will be the very matter that she raises. I am grateful to her.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. I can see that there are senior Members on the Opposition Benches who have not been called—I apologise—and likewise large numbers of people on the Government Benches. However, Mr Speaker has said, making it very clear, that statements will take 45 minutes, and I point out that if we are going to give everyone a chance, questions and answers have to be short, but nobody pays any attention and this, I am afraid, is what happens. Questions have to be short or not everyone gets in. But I assure people that if you have not got in this time, you will be at the top of the list next time, as were the people who were not called on the last statement but were called on this one.