Amendment to the Motion

Part of Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill - Second Reading (and remaining stages) – in the House of Lords at 6:13 pm on 24th February 2020.

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Photo of Lord Evans of Weardale Lord Evans of Weardale Crossbench 6:13 pm, 24th February 2020

My Lords, I welcome the Bill for two slightly different reasons. First, the police and security services are faced daily with acute and difficult priority decisions about to which of such a large number of potential terrorist targets they should apply their surveillance resources. By taking the decision to put surveillance on target A, you are by implication deciding not to put it elsewhere; that is where the risk arises. Against that background, it is absurd to have the situation that appears to have applied with the Streatham attacker—to release from custody a convicted terrorist who was believed to pose an immediate and direct threat, and to land that problem on to an already stretched system. The fact that that individual continued to pose a threat while subject to armed surveillance demonstrates the difficulty in controlling this sort of risk outside a prison environment—and we know it can be difficult even within that environment. Anything that can be done to reduce the sharpness of those prioritisation decisions is worth doing and important, to keep members of the public safe.

Secondly, I support the measure because of what the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, referred to as the current fiction of sentencing policy. What you see is not what you get when it comes to sentencing. That undermines trust and credibility in the criminal and judicial system. Anything that moves the dial towards more alignment between the sentence and how long somebody actually serves is highly desirable. The Bill goes some small way towards that aim.

The House has heard quite a lot about deradicalisation. We need to be concentrating resources and intellectual firepower on this problem. It is one of the key elements of the Government’s Prevent agenda, which has been running for nearly 20 years. As everyone who has followed this knows, it is a difficult process to design and implement. I have had the opportunity of visiting a number of deradicalisation programmes in various parts of the world; not only in the United Kingdom but in places as different as Singapore and Saudi Arabia. The programmes in place in those countries are extremely varied; some are community based, others based in the prison system. None of them is anywhere close to guaranteeing successful outcomes.

There are clearly successful cases of individuals having been deradicalised; they have gone through the process and taken the decision to leave behind their extreme views. However, it is difficult to have confidence that that will be the outcome in any particular case. I am therefore reluctant to rely on that as a way of trying to reduce the dangers on our streets. It is not that it is not important: it is not sufficient. The corollary is that decisions, even by a well-informed and professional body such as the Parole Board, are always going to be uncertain. Therefore, any decision to allow a convicted terrorist to leave prison before the end of their sentence carries significant risk. The nature of that risk is quite intense; we should therefore limit the amount of time that individuals in that category spend out on the streets when there is the opportunity to keep them inside. The Bill moves the dial on that aspect; I therefore support it.