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Eligibility for release on licence of terrorist prisoners: England and Wales

Part of Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 12th February 2020.

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Photo of Daisy Cooper Daisy Cooper Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 5:00 pm, 12th February 2020

I am not seeking to press new clause 3, but I am seeking reassurances from the Minister relating to the purpose behind it and a commitment to post-legislative scrutiny.

In my earlier remarks, I made the point that fast law can be bad law. In the absence of an opportunity for thorough pre-legislative scrutiny, we absolutely must have post-legislative scrutiny. There are relevant examples of where this has happened: the Immigration Act 2014 was controversial, so it contained the same requirement as exists in new clause 3; and the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, which was rushed in in response to a court ruling, included a sunset clause of 18 months. I am not asking for a sunset clause, but new clause 3 sets out clearly that we would like the opportunity for a statutory review after one year. The person conducting that review should be appointed after consultation with the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation and they should have professional experience relating to imprisonment for offences of terrorism.

New clause 3 does not seek to outline the scope of such a statutory review, but I would like to give the Committee some examples of the kind of matters that could be covered by it. Such a statutory review could ask whether the extra time the terrorists spend in prison is being used to de-radicalise them. Are they actually receiving an effective de-radicalisation programme or, on the contrary, are they potentially becoming more dangerous? It could look at whether the Parole Board has the resources to cope with the extra demands put on it. It could look at whether terrorist prisoners are being failed by the Parole Board and whether they are being released at the end of their sentence without any supervision on licence. It could look at whether the probation service has the staff and resources it needs to ensure effective supervision during the shorter period that offenders spend on licence. It could also perhaps look at whether the change in the release point affects the sentencing decisions made by judges.

As I said earlier, there is a risk that because of the lack of opportunity for pre-legislative scrutiny there is the possibility that this becomes a law of unintended consequences. I know there are proposals for legislation down the line, but we also know that legislation can get delayed. It would be absolutely right for the House to insist on post-legislative scrutiny by virtue of a one-year statutory review. Who knows, the review might even identify things that could be included in future legislation.