Amendment 10

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill - Committee (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 26th January 2021.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath:

Moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

10: After Clause 26, insert the following new Clause—“Rehabilitation and de-radicalisation programmeWithin six months of this Act coming into force, the Secretary of State must—(a) publish a strategy setting out how a programme of rehabilitation and de-radicalisation is to be applied to those sentenced under Part 1 of this Act; and(b) lay a copy of the programme before Parliament.”

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour

My Lords, first, I declare an interest, as my wife is an adviser on the Prevent programme in the further education sector. The importance of this amendment was driven home yesterday by comments from Jonathan Hall, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, when he said that terrorist prisoners are not being prosecuted for radicalising fellow inmates and that extremism is being encouraged behind closed doors in our prisons. Although I broadly support the major provisions of the Bill that are intended to ensure that serious and dangerous terrorist offenders spend longer in custody, they surely have to go hand in hand with a rigorous programme of rehabilitation and deradicalisation.

The Government’s claim that longer sentences will allow more time in which to support disengagement and rehabilitation is, frankly, fanciful in the light of experience over the last few years. Even the impact assessment published alongside the Bill acknowledged that there is limited evidence of the impact of longer prison terms on reoffending and that there is a risk of offenders radicalising others during their stay in custody. So far, the Government have been less than convincing on how they are to tackle the evident problems in our prisons with terrorist offenders, so my amendment seeks to ensure that Ministers have to publish a strategy setting out how a programme of rehabilitation and deradicalisation is to be applied to those sentenced under Part 1 of the Bill.

The importance of gripping this was certainly underlined by Jonathan Hall yesterday, when he announced that he has decided to review terrorism in the prison estate in England and Wales. As he said, how terrorism is detected, policed, disrupted and prosecuted when it occurs within the prison estate is relevant to the overall effectiveness of terrorism legislation. Mr Hall said that he is particularly focused on acts within the prison estate that amount to criminal offences, such as encouraging terrorism or disseminating terrorist publications, the status and influence of convicted terrorist prisoners within the prison estate, and whether there is any connection to prison gangs. His review is of course highly relevant to my amendment, and particularly to its timing, but it does not detract in any way from the need for a concerted government strategy.

It is not as though Ministers did not know that they had real problems here. In 2016, the review by former prison governor Ian Acheson warned of a growing problem within prisons. Anti-terrorism legislation passed in the aftermath of 7/7 had led to a significant increase in conviction rates for terrorist offences. He identified that, progressively, more of those offenders were held outside the high security estate and that some were proceeding through the offender management system towards release into the community. Such prisoners extended the threat of radicalisation beyond those arrested for terrorist offences. Other prisoners, both Muslim and non-Muslim, serving sentences for crimes unrelated to terrorism were then vulnerable to radicalisation by Islamist extremists. Acheson argued, four years ago, that

“a central, comprehensive and coordinated strategy is required to monitor and counter it” and

“focus on greater coordination with the police.”

The Government responded in time by creating a new Security, Order and Counter Terrorism directorate. Specialist units were promised to allow greater separation and specialised management of the highest-risk individuals, with improved capacity for responding swiftly to serious violent incidents. Improved staff training, tightened vetting and removal of extremist literature were also promised, alongside greater focus on the safe management of corporate worship. For all those fine words, little progress has been made. Indeed, last week it emerged that only a handful of nearly 200 people in prison for terror-related offences were in the separation places recommended by Mr Acheson.

These failures cannot be divorced from more general failings in our overcrowded and understaffed prisons. I come back to Ian Acheson because his more recent analysis in 2019 for the Centre for Social Justice pinpointed the issues faced. He said:

“Our prisons are in a terrible state … The most recent failings have been driven by a reduction in the number of prison officers working in our prisons, but longer-term failings have included a defeatist attitude towards tackling drugs and addiction, and a failure to keep the prison estate up-to-date and fit-for-purpose … Squalor, indolence and brutality have become normalised within the walls of many of our jails—particularly those local and medium security establishments that deal with short-term offenders … Ruinous cuts, inflicted on front line staff as the prison population increased, have made a mockery of a rehabilitation culture when staff routinely suffer serious assaults and cannot themselves feel safe at work”.

This is hardly the atmosphere in which to conduct rehabilitation and a successful deradicalisation programme. It is abundantly clear that the Government do not have a cohesive and credible strategy and it is incumbent on them to recognise that and come forward with credible and funded programmes to turn this around.

My amendment, with the distinguished support of the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, would require that within six months of the Act coming in to force, the Secretary of State must publish a strategy setting out how a programme of rehabilitation and deradicalisation is to be applied to those sentenced under Part 1.

I understand that Mr Hall’s review announced yesterday will clearly be important in updating our understanding of the challenges and that a government strategy would clearly be informed by that and, to some extent, the timing of it. However, it is not credible nor right that the Government should seek to extend sentences for terrorists without a parallel determination to improve rehabilitation and deradicalisation programmes. I very much hope that the House will support this. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Carlile of Berriew Lord Carlile of Berriew Crossbench 4:00 pm, 26th January 2021

My Lords, I give my strong support to both amendments in the group: that moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of King’s Heath, and the one that will be spoken to later by my noble friend Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede.

I want to start by thanking the joint strike force on the Government Front Bench—the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart—who have brought a refreshingly clear and responsive attitude towards debates on quite complicated legal issues. I can say of both of them that their engagement with Members has been exemplary; the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, has specialised in short, 20-minute conversations that cover everything in a relatively short time. I just hope that the noble Lords will not get over the open consultation they are giving to other Members of your Lordships’ House. It is very welcome.

I too want to reflect on what was said by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, yesterday. Obviously, he is very concerned about the efficacy, if such efficacy exists, of deradicalisation programmes in prisons. I am given to understand that the successor to my short-lived appointment as Independent Reviewer of Prevent will soon be appointed. I wonder whether this afternoon, as a piece of instant gratification to us all, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, in replying to this debate may be able to tell us who that is going to be and announce the appointment. I am given to understand that it may literally be imminent.

During my time in that role, just as I came to the end of it as a result of an unwelcome judicial review, I was about to start the sort of examination that has been announced by Jonathan Hall. There is a background to it. A whistleblower came to see me from the prison where Usman Khan, the Fishmongers’ Hall terrorist, was held. On my advice, that person immediately spoke to officials at the Home Office and the Home Office was made aware of the problems. It is clear that deradicalisation programmes in prisons are not working at all well. Maybe some are working but nobody knows which ones are working and on whom.

I draw your Lordships’ particular attention to proposed new subsection (2) in Amendment 35 from my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, which sets out six criteria that need to be examined to see how these programmes are working. When I was the Independent Reviewer of Prevent, I had a review carried out of all the academic literature on Prevent, including these programmes. It exposed that no real measurement is being made of such programmes—no surprise given that the Fish- mongers’ Hall terrorist was thought to have been totally reformed. Before the programmes are put in place, they need to be carefully analysed and verified by proper, academic and, where possible, neurological research in which polygraphs are not an answer in themselves but a legitimate neurological tool as part of the armoury of an assessor.

I hope that the Government will recognise that these two amendments raise some serious issues that require the closest of examination.

Photo of Baroness Henig Baroness Henig Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has experienced computer problems, so we must move on to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration)

My Lords, my name is to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. It would have been added to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, but I was caught out by the speed at which we suddenly arrived at these proceedings. I appreciate that there are differences between the amendments, including the time period for review, and the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, is not confined to prisoners sentenced under Part 1. In particular, there is the criteria for assessment to which the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, referred.

Like others, I have been struck by Ian Acheson’s work. One of the many things that he has said that has been quoted widely is that:

“We cannot speak to dead terrorists. We can speak for dead victims. They demand that policymakers take risks to ensure that the people who wish to harm us through a corrupt ideology are engaged, not shunned. This should happen not because states are weak, but because they are confident the strength of their values will ultimately prevail.”

He has, of course, described prisons as incubators of radical behaviour. They are incubators of crime of all sorts: Islamic extremism, right-wing extremism, drug crime and other organised crime. Are there hothouses within the incubators? Given that resources are not infinite, what is the best balance between work in prison and work in the community? To pick up a point made earlier this afternoon, I do not regard the rights of offenders versus the public as being the issue; both are about effective means of achieving the safety of the public.

Programmes must be assessed and, no doubt, evaluation and adaptation is not a one-off but a continuing process. All this has a context: the conditions in our prisons. That is hardly a novel point. How suitable are those places for rehabilitation? How well trained are staff? Do they have the capacity to spot the signs of how prisoners are affected by other prisoners and by their experience of imprisonment?

I have not seen mention, though I am sure it has been addressed, of the recruitment of staff from Muslim communities, who may be alert to what non-Muslims would not see. In the interests of balance, I should refer—although I am not sure how—to those who might be thought of, in a prejudiced, caricatured way, as having right-wing sympathies. I am not sure how you would do that, but I want to make it clear that this is not a single issue.

If terrorists are segregated from the rest of the prison population, does that reinforce their beliefs and attitudes? Is there a cumulative experience? What if the terrorism is rooted in different, opposing ideologies? What are the vulnerabilities of prisoners to becoming radicalised? How different is that process from being drawn further into, say, drugs crime or other violent crime? Indeed, may it not require more sophistication and knowledge to draw someone into Islamist extremism, which, as I understand it—others will know much more about it—involves much teaching and studying of the Koran?

None of this can be separated from what goes on outside prison, including when a prisoner is on licence. The skills required by the probation service are considerable, especially in the face of what I understand to be increasing sophistication on the part of prisoners on licence regarding how to game the system—the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, may have referred obliquely to that. I cannot begin to answer my questions, and there are not nearly enough of them, but this is the moment to ask them.

Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks Non-affiliated

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in welcoming my noble friend Lord Wolfson to his position. I can say from experience that it is a challenging but rewarding post.

It is well understood that deradicalisation programmes are particularly challenging to evaluate. There is nothing new about this. I remember attending meetings in Brussels to discuss with my fellow Justice Ministers the problem of radicalisation in prison and the best response to it. There was no real agreement on that but my clear impression was that in 2015, we were already adopting a much more sophisticated approach to the problem than were other countries within the European Union. This is not some tedious pro-Brexit point: the whole purpose of our meeting was to try to share intelligence and work out the best response. However, even the most enthusiastic supporter of the various deradicalisation initiatives would acknowledge the difficulty of assessing their success or otherwise.

As I understand it, there are already a number of programmes deployed in prisons that are targeted at terrorist offenders, and I expect the Minister to tell us a great deal more about them. I have read what Jonathan Hall said about what are, effectively, offences that are committed in prison by the radicalisation of prisoners by other prisoners. This may well have happened in the case of the murder of three men in Forbury Gardens in Reading, which many noble Lords will remember all too clearly.

In 2016, Ian Acheson made a number of recommendations. A number of noble Lords have said that little progress has been made. I await the Minister’s comments on that, but I understood that quite a few initiatives had been taken, including training officers to spot signs of extremism and increasing the number of staff with specific counter-terrorism experience or knowledge.

One of the most difficult decisions is whether to separate terrorists from other prisoners. I can see that the advantage of doing so is that it restricts the opportunities for proselytising. However, at the same time there is a real risk of giving terrorists some sort of quasi-political status. My fellow Ministers in the European Union considered that separation should be avoided at all costs, because conferring such a special status on terrorists could even increase the apparent respect in which prisoners are held in some quarters if they have been involved in terrorism. It could even become some form of rallying cry to others who are potentially susceptible to extreme views. Can the Minister tell us the Government’s view on this issue? In particular, how many prisoners—so far as it is possible to say—do the Government think are in a position where they might affect those in prison who have the potential to be deradicalised? That would give us an idea of the scale of the problem.

I welcome this amendment as a way of probing the Government’s plans with regard to deradicalisation. It is a challenging process, and one, as we have seen, where individuals can confound all those who genuinely hope to find out whether they have changed their ways. These ideas are deeply embedded in the psyche of many who have been radicalised. Like other noble Lords I look forward to Jonathan Hall QC’s recommendations on radicalisation in prisons. However, while I welcome further elaboration, I am not convinced that these amendments are needed.

Photo of Baroness Henig Baroness Henig Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 4:15 pm, 26th January 2021

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, is not on the call, so I call the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

My Lords, I would like to say everything I said on Amendment 7: we need effective rehabilitation, deradicalisation and reintegration of terrorist offenders. Right-wing extremism is growing. Research by HOPE not hate found that one in four people in Britain believe at least some element of QAnon conspiracy theories. These conspiracies allege that the world is run by satanic paedophiles who eat babies and want to kill 90% of the world’s population. The only logical solution for anyone who believes that is to fight and kill the people in charge, to stop it happening. The attack on the Capitol was only the beginning of such madness.

We are likely to see violence here in the UK too as a natural consequence of growing belief in these conspiracy theories. However, whatever the motivation of terrorists, the common theme is that they have been brought into such a deeply flawed belief system that they are prepared to inflict severe harm on other people. The only option is to repair those belief systems so that the perceived wrongs are no longer so severe as to justify harming innocent people.

I hope the Government can see that this problem will happen and will expand. We need better legislation to cope with it, and better practices inside and outside prisons.

Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

My Lords, I listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and agreed with a great deal of what he said—and I understood it all. I realised that that was because he is not a lawyer either. Nevertheless, even as just a layman, I think we all appreciate how hugely difficult this issue is. I also listened to the very sensible comments of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile; he has huge experience of this matter. It is terribly complicated, and wishful thinking will not make it go away.

The strategy we are talking about is very important, but this has been going on for at least two decades and I do not have total confidence in deradicalisation or rehabilitation. Neither does Jonathan Hall, who is currently carrying out his review. We talk about rehabilitation but Usman Khan—who the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, mentioned—killed his mentor, Jack Merritt, who believed in his redemption and had faith in his deradicalisation, because Khan managed to lie successfully. Do polygraphs and lie detectors find this out? I do not know.

I agree with many of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and others. This hugely complicated issue needs further thought and deep consideration of how, if at all, we can solve these problems. With religious fanaticism or a fanatic ideology, is it possible to deradicalise people? I do not know. Are we talking about what was mentioned earlier, those no-hope sentences? I hope not. Should we throw away the key as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, suggested some of us want to do? I hope not, because I think people have to have some hope. However, I do think we need to have greater depth of thinking in this. I say to the Minister that we need to be looking at this in such depth that it may be we are still discussing it in a year’s time.

Photo of Lord Woolf Lord Woolf Crossbench

My Lords, in view of the speeches we have had from a number of noble Lords, there is nothing which I would want to detain noble Lords with regarding this amendment. I agree that it serves a useful purpose and particularly associate myself with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, with regard to the openness of the Front Bench on behalf of the Government. Like him, I hope that will be something that will happily continue.

Photo of Lord Paddick Lord Paddick Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, to his first Bill. In my limited contact with him, I think that he is more than a match for the challenge the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, alluded to. I completely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, in his assessment of the current dangers of longer prison sentences in the absence of an effective programme of deradicalisation and rehabilitation. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, also mentioned the comments of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall QC. His concerns seem to chime with the concerns of all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate. I do not share the faith that noble Lords have in polygraph testing, for the reasons explained earlier by Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames.

My noble friend Lady Hamwee rightly expressed concerns that prisons continue to be incubators, hothouses, or academies of crime—use which term you will—for crime generally, as well as places where vulnerable inmates are radicalised, whether by right wing extremists or by others. If ever there was evidence of the need for these amendments, it is what the Government describe as the

“range of tailored interventions available”—[Official Report,21/9/20; col. 1650] to the perpetrators of the Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham atrocities, that were designed to deradicalise and rehabilitate them while they were in prison. Unless and until the deradicalisation and rehabilitation of offenders is effectively applied to those sentenced under Part 1 of the Bill, and its impact is assessed, there is a real danger that the longer these terrorist offenders spend in prison, the greater the threat they pose to the safety of the public—whether by radicalising others in prison or directly upon their release. I intend to expand on these statements and the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, which I agree with, when we come to the group beginning with Amendment 16.

Photo of Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Shadow Spokesperson (Justice)

My Lords, my Amendment 35 is in this group. I agreed with everything my noble friend Lord Hunt said when he introduced his amendment. My amendment is different in detail, but the overall approach is the same—that is, to have a realistic and timed review of the various approaches to the Prevent programme which the Government is embarking upon.

I got an interesting briefing on this debate from the probation officers’ trade union, Napo. It made a couple of points, which I will repeat. It said that in the offender management and custody model, it indicates that a high-risk offender should get one hour of individual contact per month with a probation officer. A probation office’s staff have a minimum of 70 clients, so it is impossible for them to meet that requirement. The central point that Napo made in the briefing was that, when one reviews approaches and puts down procedures, the reviews need to result in practical change on the ground, otherwise they are destined to be repeated without effective change.

I was very interested to hear the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, who was a very effective Minister. He talked about his experience in that role. He also, interestingly, talked about the status of prisoners when they are in prison. I occasionally visit prisons, and I have visited Belmarsh on a couple of occasions. Belmarsh is a prison within a prison and there is undoubtedly status for the people on the inside prison; you can tell it from the tone of voice of the prison officers when they talk about the facility they are involved in managing. There is status to be gained through the way you are treated while in prison. I unfortunately know that to be true through friends of friends whose children have ended up in prison. There is a status to be gained within prison, which sometimes young men cannot have when they are outside prison.

I welcome the review of terrorism legislation by Mr Hall. I also note that it is Mr William Shawcross who has been appointed to review the Prevent programme, and I know he has extensive experience on this matter. The purpose of both these amendments is to tease out the progress and practical changes which the Government hope to make through reviewing the Prevent programme.

Photo of Lord Stewart of Dirleton Lord Stewart of Dirleton The Advocate-General for Scotland

My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for their amendments, which bring us to a very important set of issues. I discern that the Committee is united in believing that data is necessary in order that we might, as much as possible, develop and devise schemes by which deradicalisation can be accomplished. The Government do not think that a new strategy for rehabilitation and disengagement nor a review of the current delivery is beneficial at this time. However, to reassure noble Lords, I want to briefly set out the important work being done in prisons and probation to turn terrorist offenders away from extremism so that they can be released safely. The Government have a clear strategy for rehabilitation programmes for terrorist offenders. The important work in prison and probation here delivers against the Contest strategy, which was recently refreshed and published. Since then, significant work has been done to strengthen our approach to rehabilitation and disengagement of terrorism offenders. This strategy applies to all terrorism offenders, not only those who will receive the new serious terrorism sentence or be subject to the changes made by Part 1 of the Bill.

Rehabilitation programmes are not the only way we manage and reduce the threat. These programmes operate in conjunction with our holistic approach to risk reduction through specialist case management, a network of counterterrorist specialists, multi-agency risk assessment and intelligence sharing, specialist counterterrorist staff training and operational controls. Work is ongoing.

Earlier this year, this Government announced a major improvement programme in the sector, the counterterrorism step-up programme, which includes the creation of a CT assessment and rehabilitation centre. This centre represents a major shift in our capability in these fields. It will build an evidence base of what works. As noble Lords have observed, it is notoriously difficult to prove what works in the rehabilitation of terrorist offenders. I refer particularly to the thoughtful observations of the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, on that subject. However, this centre will deploy specialists and use the best available evidence to inform what is delivered. That, in turn, will feed into policy. The CT assessment and rehabilitation centre will have greater capacity to respond to new threats.

For example, there is that growing threat—which the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, identified and to which the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, also spoke—from extreme right-wing terrorists that needs to be addressed. Furthermore, more highly trained staff will be recruited to deliver current intervention programmes. This includes bolstering the cohort of specialist psychologists and, in relation to the deformation of religious faith that can lead to terrorism, trained chaplains who deliver interventions.

Since 2010, significant work has taken place to develop and improve counterterrorism interventions. The primary intervention delivered with this cohort is the Healthy Identity Intervention, known by its initials HII. It is informed by ongoing evidence, including evidence gained from international partners, and it has been accredited by a panel of experts who confirmed it works in line with the best available evidence.

The direction and ambition of this work is clear, and it is the Government’s view that a new strategy is unnecessary. What is required is for us to deliver this important agenda, and I trust noble Lords will be following that progress with interest. The impact of some measures in this Bill will take time to be considered through proper evaluation. A review in such a short timeframe as the amendments propose would not, I respectfully submit, be able to consider the effect of these programmes or the impact of this important Bill with proper depth and clarity. Instead, noble Lords will have an opportunity to review the Bill’s impact in the usual way three years after it receives Royal Assent.

I said earlier, when referring to group 3 of amendments, that I would try to answer the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, on the assessment and the value of interventions. I have anticipated what I will say in my remarks thus far. Let me go into some further detail.

Rehabilitation is the key to our approach, both in custody, in prison, and in the community, on licence out of the prison. More time in custody will mean more time to carry out targeted, tailored interventions with each offender. We have identified a range of interventions —physiological, theological and ideological—which take into account the risks and needs of each offender, while helping to encourage and facilitate the objectives of desistance and disengagement. Earlier this year, the Government announced the creation of the counterterrorism assessment and rehabilitation centre to which I have referred.

Anxious questions were posed about the effectiveness of these rehabilitation programmes. In particular, we were reminded—and we have been reminded already this afternoon—of the terrible events arising at Fishmongers’ Hall. Her Majesty’s Prison Service delivers a formal and accredited programme in custody and the community: that is the Healthy Identity Intervention programme. There is also the prison strand of the Desistance and Disengagement Programme, rolled out in 2018. That programme provides a range of intensive, tailored interventions and practical support designed to help intervention. These intervention programmes have a robust research and evaluation mechanism built into them. That will be at the heart of the work of the new CT assessment and rehabilitation centre.

As I say—again in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede—we appreciate that measuring changes in behaviour is notoriously hard, especially in such a small cohort relative to the size of the prison and probation population in England and Wales, and for that matter elsewhere in the United Kingdom. All terrorist prisoners are managed through a specialist case management process. This includes standardised tools for assessing and grading offender risk and needs, with a strong and regular multi-agency governance of the cases. We have a range of rehabilitative tools in prison. These tools assist in support of the management of risk and the needs of each individual offender. As I say, there is a holistic approach to rehabilitation that seeks to allow us to manage effectively and reduce the threat.

Turning again to remarks by the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, most extremist prisoners can be managed in the mainstream prison population, with appropriate conditions and controls underpinned by a specialist multi-agency counterterrorism risk management process, which allows risk assessments and intelligence to be shared appropriately with the partners. Separation centres were never intended for use with all or significant numbers of terrorist offenders. If we were to put all, or a significant proportion of, those with terror convictions, extremist views or susceptibilities to radicalisation into them, it would—as I think the noble Lord appreciated from his comments—undermine their main purpose, which is to separate the most dangerous from those vulnerable to radicalisation or further radicalisation.

To add to my remarks about the nature and quality of tools used in prison in this difficult and challenging field, I refer the Committee to the Extremism Risk Guidance 22+. This is the principal tool used to assess extremist offending by specially trained psychologists or probation officers. This requires the assessor to consider 22 factors, and any additional factors, to understand an individual’s pathway to engagement in extremism, how they overcame inhibitions against offending and their capability to contribute to, or to commit a further extremist offence. It contributes to decision-making by a multidisciplinary team about the individual concerned.

I refer the Committee to the Healthy Identity Intervention. This is a one-on-one programme that supports desistance and disengagement from extremism by targeting the social and psychological drivers of extremist offending. The central aims are to reduce an individual’s willingness to offend on behalf of an extremist group, cause or ideology and to promote and facilitate disengagement from an extremist group, cause or ideology. It is neither ideologically focused nor intended to re-educate participants in a particular set of beliefs or doctrine. Rather, it aims to encourage individuals to reflect on and re-evaluate their commitments, beliefs and values. It has been subject to scrutiny by the Correctional Services Accreditation and Advice Panel, and specialists from the field of extremism research. The purpose of this was to ensure that the intervention is informed by the most current evidence base. The Ministry of Justice is committed to conducting evaluations of accredited programmes to assess delivery and impact on reoffending and other related outcomes.

With special reference to radicalisation in the context of faith or belief, the desistance and disengagement programme includes a theological and ideological intervention programme. In January 2019, a small group of 23 prison chaplains was trained to deliver this with prisoners. In its first year, the programme has received 47 referrals via the case management system. I am told that it has seen some early successes, with a number of chaplaincies and their wider case management teams reporting prisoners beginning to show signs of questioning, and even rejecting, extremist ideology.

Noble Lords will appreciate that none of that is intended to suggest that the Government think the answers are there and have been accomplished. I hope noble Lords will not think me complacent in rehearsing them; I seek to provide assurance that the Government are aware of the extent and complexity of the problem to which the Committee has alluded, and we are seeking to advance solutions in a number of ways.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, drew to the Committee’s attention the remarks of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall QC. The Government welcome his review on this important issue. I think I speak for the whole House in saying that I am sure he will bring his rigour, authority and independence to the task. The Lord Chancellor has asked officials to give him the support and access that he needs. The Government will consider carefully his findings and recommendations once they are available.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, for his description of my noble friend Lord Wolfson and me as the “joint strike force”. I am particularly happy with this, as it suggests a dynamism on my part which others have often failed to identify. I hope the whole House will accept our assurance—I think I speak for my noble friend in this—that we will seek to live up to the noble Lord’s very kind words and maintain his favourable opinion. I say that also with reference to the kind remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, referred to the absence of real measurement in place, to the necessity of academic and neurological research and to providing the tools for assessors in dealing with these exceptionally difficult and complex problems. I hope the outline I have given of the programmes already in place has gone some way to satisfying him as to the importance with which the Government treat these matters. I also hope he will accept my assurance that in no sense do we on this side of the House consider that these have reached an end; rather, they are part of an evolving understanding of the problem and, equally, an evolving series of strategies to deal with it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, also referred to recruitment and radicalisation in prisons. I refer her to my earlier remarks on the recruitment of specialist chaplains; imams are also trained within that group to provide interventions within the programme to which I spoke. I agree with her that the issues are indeed complex.

The noble Lord, Lord Faulks, was concerned that little progress appears to have been made. I hope that what I have said will reassure him that, while we appreciate the ultimate objective is a long way from being reached—indeed, such is the nature of the difficulty, it may never be reached; we may always be pursuing and trying to catch up with an evolving threat—none the less, serious thought is given to the matter. Preparation to deal with it is in hand.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and others referred to the evolving and growing risk of right-wing terrorism and radical views such as she described. I am sure she will agree that part of the answer to this is robust and vigorous debate within freedom of speech to challenge such unpalatable, harmful and criminal views as they arise.

The noble Lord, Lord Robathan, mentioned the complexities of the matter and spoke about the means by which these objectives of deradicalisation may be followed. He referred to polygraphs; to echo some of the remarks made earlier by the other wing of the joint strike force, polygraphs are merely part of a battery of measures to be deployed in assessing these matters. He asks whether it is possible ultimately to succeed in deradicalising; I have made some remarks on that already. I say again that our understanding of the problem, and of where potential solutions may arise, is evolving.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that the effectiveness of the strategies which the Government have in place is bound to improve. Methodologies will improve as time goes on and data is collected and studied.

In real terms, I do not disagree with anything the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, said about the need for a review of the operation of these measures. However, is it realistic to call for such a review within the short time for which the amendments call? For the reasons I have discussed concerning the acknowledged difficulties around collecting and examining data, I say that it is not.

Against that background and in light of the assurances I have sought to give, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, will see fit to withdraw his amendment, and that in due course the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, will see fit not to press his.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour 4:45 pm, 26th January 2021

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in what has been an important and fascinating debate. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, backed up by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, paid tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, and the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, for their approach from the Front Bench. We have seen from the full reply of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, that that is endorsed by me and other Members of your Lordships’ House.

I do not pretend that this is easy. As both the noble Lords, Lord Carlile and Lord Faulks, said, deradicalisation programmes are difficult to evaluate, and we should not underestimate the challenge that any Government would face. But, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, there are some pertinent questions to be asked about the deliverability of the current programmes in relation to deradicalisation and the skills required by staff in prison.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, mentioned the importance of considering right-wing extremism as terrorism too, and I endorse that. I also endorse the implication from the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, that we as lay people have something to say in these matters. Indeed we do, and I always believe it right that in some of these technical debates we hear from lay people and not just people within the legal and policing professions.

My visits to prisons in my two years as Minister in the Ministry of Justice some years ago taught me about the power of good rehabilitation programmes, which is why I am so keen that the Government have a proper cohesive strategy for taking this forward. I also believe that, as a lay person, I bring a strong sense, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, that it is not right for the House to agree to these longer sentences without having some guarantees of the cohesive programme of rehabilitation and deradicalisation that needs to go with it.

I welcome Amendment 35, tabled by my noble friend Lord Ponsonby. It is different in detail but, as he said, overall our approach is the same. He was right to point out some of the practical issues involved, such as the fact that probation officers’ workload is so heavy, and the real issue in prisons: the cuts to front-line staff, which have caused such a problem to the whole estate and undermined the rehabilitation culture.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, in his long, generous wind-up, emphasised the importance of data. He also set out some of the initiatives that the Government have taken since Ian Acheson’s report. I was grateful to him. He also referred to a number of achievements. The question is whether those are sufficient. From my point of view, I doubt that they are. Clearly Mr Hall’s review is a potential game-changer, and it is sensible to see its outcome. None the less, the Bill is an opportunity to ensure that, whatever that outcome, there is a requirement on the Government to come forward with a cohesive strategy. I think we ought to return to this on Report. Having said that, I thank all noble Lords and beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 10 withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Henig Baroness Henig Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 11. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or anything else in this group to a Division must make that clear in debate.

Clause 27: Removal of early release for dangerous terrorist prisoners: England and Wales