Serious terrorism sentence for adults aged under 21: England and Wales

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 30th June 2020.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice) 2:45 pm, 30th June 2020

I beg to move amendment 37, in clause 4, page 5, line 32, at end insert—

“(7) The pre-sentence report must—

(a) take account of the offender’s age;

(b) consider whether options other than a serious terrorism sentence might be more effective at—

(i) reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or

(ii) rehabilitating the offender.

(8) The court must take account of any points made by the pre-sentence report in relation to the matters in subsection (7) and consider whether they constitute exceptional circumstances under subsection (2).”

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

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 45, in clause 6, page 9, line 20, leave out subsection (11) and insert—

“(11) In forming an opinion for the purposes of subsections (1)(d) and (6), the court must consider a report by a relevant officer of a local authority about the offender and the offender’s circumstances.

(11A) Where the offender is under 21 years of age, the report must—

(a) take account of the offender’s age; and

(b) consider whether options other than a serious terrorism sentence might be more effective at—

(i) reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or

(ii) rehabilitating the offender; and the court must take these factors into account when forming its opinion under subsection (6).

(11B) In considering the report, the court must, if it thinks it necessary, hear the relevant officer.”

Amendment 46, in clause 7, page 10, line 13, at end insert—

“(2A) Where the offender is under the age of 21, in forming an opinion for the purposes of paragraph (2), the court must consider and take into account a pre-sentence report within the meaning of Article 4 which must—

(a) take account of the offender’s age; and

(b) consider whether options other than a serious terrorism sentence might be more effective at—

(i) reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or

(ii) rehabilitating the offender.”

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I am sure that these amendments come as no surprise to the Minister and other members of the Committee, given my interrogation of our witnesses during the oral evidence sessions over the past few days. This area needs particular attention from the Government, and I intend to press the amendment to a vote—unless, of course, the Minister comes up with an appropriate answer. On the basis of all this kindly co-operation and friendliness that we are sharing, and our intention to prove to the public that we can work across parties, perhaps he might surprise me a little.

Amendment 37 would require that when a court considers a serious terrorism sentence for a young adult under the age of 21, the pre-sentence report must take account of the offender’s age and consider options other than a serious terrorism sentence for rehabilitation and reducing harm. It means that the court must also take into account the issues raised in the pre-sentence report and whether it constitutes exceptional circumstances under proposed new section 268B(2).

We need a basic recognition in the Bill’s sentencing framework that, simply put, young adults and adults are inherently different, not only in terms of maturity, but in their potential for rehabilitation. Regarding the level of maturity, numerous organisations, such as the Howard League, have advocated for this proposal. It has been recognised in reviews such as the Lammy review, and by the Justice Committee. Why is it not recognised in the Bill?

As we have said from the outset, serious terrorist offences deserve a serious sentence, but it is still important to consider the age of the offender when other offences of a non-terrorist nature are committed. Although the amendment is specific to under 21s, in line with the Bill, evidence of maturation suggests that young adults up to the age of 25 ought to be considered as a separate group requiring a distinct response from criminal justice agencies.

The work in this area continues apace, and I have no doubt that Ministers may well have to address their approach to all manner of sentences for people up to the age of 25 when we can all be satisfied that the science proves, beyond reasonable doubt, that they ought to be treated differently. We had a considerable amount of evidence on that. I asked Peter Dawson from the Prison Reform Trust for his view on the different factors relating to young people. He said:

“The Bill should have a different sentencing framework for children and for young adults. At the moment, the law defines a young adult as someone aged between 18 and 20. It is not for this Bill to do, but at some point that should change to between 18 and 24.”

I think that is his opinion. He continued:

“At least taking account of the detention in a young offender institution provisions would allow some recognition of the fact that young adults are different from more mature people.”—[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 25 June 2020; c. 34, Q75.]

We also discussed that issue with Jonathan Hall, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, who said that the point he was making was that

“there is recognition that people who are young and immature are probably more susceptible to change than adults.” —[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 25 June 2020; c. 10, Q15.]

I asked him whether the bottom line was that with young people, there was perhaps a greater chance of change; he had said that there might be greater opportunity for reform than with those who are considerably older. Mr Hall responded:

“That is what judges are increasingly finding.”—[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 25 June 2020; c. 10, Q16.]

I want to refer to a little more of Jonathan Hall’s evidence. He said that he believed that a younger person dimension needed to be considered in the Bill:

“One of the final points I make in my note about removing the Parole Board’s role is that, again, if it is right that children are more likely to change, and as a matter, perhaps, of fairness, one ought to give them the opportunity, then removing the opportunity to say, at the halfway or two-thirds point, ‘I have now genuinely changed; that was me then and this is me now,’ where it can be shown to the satisfaction of the Parole Board, does seem a little bit—I would not necessarily say ‘unfair’, but it fails to recognise the difference between adults and children.”—[Official Report, Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Public Bill Committee, 25 June 2020; c. 11, Q18.]

The current science and evidence tend to relate to people under 21, some of whom are a long way from full maturity. Analysis from the Royal College of Psychiatrists states that in terms of brain physiology, the development of traits such as maturity and susceptibility to peer pressure appear to continue until at least the mid-20s. That view was supported by the Justice Committee, which reported in 2016 that the growing body of evidence drawing on criminological, neurological and psychological research had led the Committee to conclude that young adults’ characteristics and needs made them distinct from older adults in terms of both their needs and their outcomes. There is no distinction in the Bill that recognises what the Justice Committee had to say.

The “Judging Maturity” report by the Howard League for Penal Reform also cited research that found the following:

“For the purposes of informing sentencing practice, the neurological and psychological evidence that development of the frontal lobes of the brain does not cease until around 25 years old is particularly compelling. It is this area of the brain which helps to regulate decision-making and the control of impulses that underpins criminal behaviour.”

As the Minister knows, I support trusting the experts where there is a significant trend. The trend of opinion from experts seems to be that we need to recognise the differences in maturity and development of young adults. In 2016, the Justice Committee reported:

“Dealing effectively with young adults while the brain is still developing is crucial for them in making successful transitions to a crime-free adulthood.”

Research into the success of interventions aimed at tackling radicalisation suggests that approaches that encourage young people to engage in education and training may be particularly beneficial, and that early interventions to encourage young people to undertake that education and training can be capable of successfully challenging radicalisation.

We talk a lot about rehabilitation, but we do not do enough of it. Labour Members do not want young offenders to be condemned to a life with no opportunity for rehabilitation when it has been reported to be successful in early adulthood. We can reform and rehabilitate, but doing so is a choice.

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Home Office)

My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech on this point. On the point about young people’s brains still developing, there is potential for grooming and undue influence by adults. With the Justice Committee, I visited a young offenders institution in Kent, where a young woman who was being held for terrorism offences had been influenced by her mother. Will he comment on that?

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

Indeed, that is very much the case. I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because he reminds me of some evidence we heard this morning about young people being more susceptible to being radicalised. Another important point raised this morning was that our prison system is not yet properly equipped to deal with young offenders in a suitable environment that prevents radicalisation. They are housed—wherever they are—with people who have committed similar offences, who will be aiming to build on their insecurities and their immaturity to encourage them into further wrongdoing. We must never lose sight of that important point. That is why I will talk about young people throughout our proceedings on the Bill, because young people have to be given a chance.

I will talk about this later, but if a 20-year-old is sentenced to14 years in prison, that will make them 34 on their release. Add another 25 years to that, and they are almost pensioners before they are clear of the shackles of the state. They have not been given the opportunity to reform, because they are constantly looking over their shoulder, perhaps with an attitude of, “Why on earth should I change when the authorities are always on my back?”

Photo of Julie Marson Julie Marson Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

We talk about children as victims in this context, but the experts who gave evidence told us that these young people are also extremely dangerous. They said that rehabilitation is extremely important—of course that can take place in prisons—but that sentencing has other objectives, such as the protection of the public, including young people walking the streets who also deserve the protection of the law.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

The hon. Lady is entirely correct. We must, first and foremost, protect the public. We need to understand that we may never be able to rehabilitate some young people, and they may be a problem to society for the rest of their lives. However, there will also be young people in the system who have done some horrible, terrible and tragic things but who can be rehabilitated and recognise that they got it wrong. They should be given the opportunity to live their life to its full extent.

When those young people are released from prison, they are pinioned into a box and told, “You are a terrorist”. They might go into approved accommodation for a while, but they will have difficulty with housing, family relationships, forming new relationships and getting a job. We need to be able to rehabilitate young people to the point where they are employable, so that we can talk to organisations that are prepared to take on former criminals to give them a better chance in life.

I spent a large part of my career in the gas industry. I am a journalist by profession, so I am no lawyer. When I worked in the gas industry, an amazing scheme was operated by what was originally British Gas but had become the Lattice Group, which had the Transco organisation within its group. It had an amazing scheme and worked with Reading prison. It took offenders from the prison into the community—this was during their sentence—and trained them to do real jobs. When they left prison, the organisations were even providing employment for them, providing bridges and real rehabilitation, so I do not think that anybody, particularly young people, should be written off. We can reform and rehabilitate, but it is a choice for us to do so.

Instead, the sentencing framework for young adults is the same as that for other adults, in that beyond the age of 18 the same guidelines and principle apply irrespective of age. This might pander to some public opinion, rather than focus on what works and what is best for the individuals concerned and for the wider society. It is worth noting that the MOJ’s own impact assessment of the Bill recognises that

“Longer periods in custody could disrupt family relationships”—

I talked about that earlier—

“which are often critical to reducing the risk of reoffending. This would be more severe for young offenders and children convicted of terrorist offences.”

The way in which the Bill is currently framed throws the key away and lets them suffer in that particular way. The Government’s assessment goes on:

“There will be a need to provide offender management in custody to adults for longer, which may require an adjustment to the resources required in custody.”

I am sure we will come to resources later.

As a consequence of not focusing on what would work best for them with an appropriate pre-sentence report taken into consideration, young adults have to rely on the extent to which they can persuade a sentencer that their age and/or immaturity is a mitigating factor. Should we not recognise the fact that these are not often hardened adult offenders, but young, often immature adults who have made a mistake, albeit a very, very serious one? There is no doubt that serious offences must result in serious sentences, but surely not all young offenders should be written off by the state.

Chronological age has long been accepted as a mitigating factor in sentencing for both the very young and the very old. More recently, the concept of lack of maturity has been introduced into formal sentencing guidance as a mitigating factor. The most obvious way for the maturity of a person facing sentence to be assessed is by the person preparing a pre-sentence report for the court. Section 156 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 gives courts the power, and indeed the obligation, to order a pre-sentence report prior to sentencing an offender to a custodial or community sentence.

Jonathan Hall, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, has said:

“The requirement of a minimum mandatory sentence for all adult offenders, however young, puts in doubt whether judges can properly reflect the fact that an adult of 18 years and one month may not be any more mature than a child of 17 years and 11 months (for whom these sentences are not available). Age may or may not result in ‘exceptional circumstances’ being found, which is the only basis on which the 14-year minimum can be avoided.”

It is also the case that a minimum term of 14 years will have a disproportionate impact on young adults, representing a much larger proportion of the total years lived by a young person than it would for an older adult. We on the Labour Benches want to recognise the differences between adults over the age of 21, those between 19 and 21, and those who are under 18, all at very different stages in their lives. The evidence points towards there being different approaches to deal with such offenders. Evidence on desistance shows that young adults are more susceptible to change and more capable of desistance from crime than older adults. The research that exists on deradicalisation programmes suggests that approaches focused on education and training can be effective with young people in particular.

I hope the Minister agrees that where we can save the future of a young offender and direct them towards a life free of crime, we should do that. But we cannot do that if we condemn them to remain in prison and then effectively on licence until they are past middle age. I do not kid myself—as I said in answer to the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford earlier—that there may be some young people for whom such a sentence is necessary. This amendment does nothing at all to prevent a judge from imposing such a sentence. However, by requiring the pre-sentencing report to look at the specific items listed in the amendment and for the court to consider it before sentencing, we will provide the courts with the opportunity of recognising exceptional circumstances and acting in an appropriate and fair manner.

This is about a young person’s future life. They may well have done the most horrible and tragic things, but even those people deserve an opportunity to prove that they can do better. This amendment would help to achieve that.

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth 3:00 pm, 30th June 2020

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I rise in support of amendments 37, 45 and 46, standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North. I want to cover some general principles in what is my first opportunity to speak in this Bill Committee. Like the Government, we are committed to keeping the public safe and we share the desire to ensure that attacks such as those at Fishmongers’ Hall and in Streatham never happen again—attacks where convicted but released terrorists were able to kill and maim innocent people.

We recognise the importance of adequate and appropriate punishment in sentencing, but punishment and sentencing must go alongside rehabilitation. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham said on Second Reading:

“We must not lose faith in the power of redemption—the ability of people to renounce the darkest chapters of their lives and move towards the light.”—[Official Report, 9 June 2020; Vol. 677, c. 213.].

For that, those offenders need an effective deradicalisation programme tailored to their motivation and circumstances, and they need hope—hope that before too long they can rejoin their family; that they can get meaningful work. They could even steer others away from the path they took before. I point out that programmes have operated in prisons in Northern Ireland with convicted paramilitaries on both sides of the troubles. In the later years of the troubles, those men became beacons of peace and reconciliation, educating young people towards positive paths.

Some contributions on Second Reading sometimes felt like support for a policy that almost veered on “Lock ’em up and throw away the key”. However, as many submissions and expert witnesses to this Committee have said, removing hope from these offenders and the opportunity to prove they are safe does not make the rest of us safer. I might add, even locking up people indefinitely, as the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford said earlier, does not protect us anyway. It does not prevent them from radicalising others. It spawns martyrs, not to mention the cost to the public purse of incarcerating prisoners for ever longer periods. As we heard this morning from the Prison Officers Association, there is also the danger to prison officers of attacks from angry men who have no hope of release in the foreseeable future.

I fear that some aspects of the Bill are born from a reaction to the terrorist atrocities in the last seven months and have been brought in without due research into what might work to further reduce the risk of attack from radicalised individuals, whether they are of a Daesh/ISIS persuasion, from the far right or, as a number of terrorists in the UK still are, rogue Irish paramilitaries.

The Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham attacks were both committed by offenders who had been released automatically halfway through their sentence with no involvement of the Parole Board. Of course, with Labour support, the Government have now brought in the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020, which ends the automatic early release of terrorist offenders and ensures that any release before the end of a sentence is dependent on a thorough risk assessment by the Parole Board. I am therefore not quite sure why the Government want to take the Parole Board out of sentencing now, without any adequate alternative provision being put in place.

Before I make some specific remarks, Dave, the father of Jack Merritt, who was killed in the Fishmongers’ Hall attack, wrote poignantly about how his son would have perceived the political reaction to his death, because of course Jack Merritt worked in the criminal justice system on the rehabilitation of offenders. Dave wrote:

“What Jack would want from this is for all of us to walk through the door he has booted down, in his black Doc Martens. That door opens up a world where we do not lock up and throw away the key. Where we do not give indeterminate sentences, or convict people on joint enterprise. Where we do not slash prison budgets, and where we focus on rehabilitation not revenge. Where we do not consistently undermine our public services, the lifeline of our nation. Jack believed in the inherent goodness of humanity, and felt a deep social responsibility to protect that.”

As I said, I support the amendments in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth

My apologies.

Amendments 37, 45 and 46 relate to under-21s. I wish that they went a little older, possibly to 25, because they consider the issue of maturity. I declare a certain interest because for many years I was a trustee and, latterly, the chair of the Barrow Cadbury Trust, which initiated and funded the Transition to Adulthood Alliance about 15 years ago. Over a number of years, the alliance worked with a number of non-governmental organisations, the Ministry of Justice, Ministers, Opposition Members and so on to the point where maturity has now been introduced into sentencing practice and several other areas of the criminal justice system. I fear that we are going to lose that in this Bill.

When considering maturity, it is really important that we work on the basis of all the research that my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North mentioned and use that research to reduce the risk of serious harm to members of the public and to enhance the rehabilitation of the offender. The Committee has heard powerful evidence, particularly this morning, about the different motivations that people have for becoming terrorists or terrorist sympathisers, such as political, religious or psychiatric.

Sentences and rehabilitation must take account of the different motivations of different offenders. As we heard this morning, we probably also need to have tailored support, which needs to come into the pre-sentencing reports. One of the amendments says that the court must also take account of reports from local authority officers who have worked with the offender prior to the point of considering sentencing.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I thank my hon. Friend for her comprehensive speech. She talks about resources and specialised facilities. The evidence we heard from some people in earlier sittings suggests that the system is not fit for purpose. Would she welcome from the Minister, as I would, a statement about how the Government will ensure proper provision for rehabilitation in our prison system?

Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth 3:15 pm, 30th June 2020

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. As others have said, it would have been better if there had been proper risk assessments of a number of aspects of the Bill, because many clauses do not seem to be evidence-based. We know that we have funding problems within the prison system. We know that we have, as we heard this morning, disjoints between various elements of the course through the system for offenders. There is an awful lot of work to do, and there are a number of respects in which I do not feel that the Bill is fit for purpose. It would have been better if it had been based on proper evidence of what works to reduce the threat to the public and improve rehabilitation.

Children have long been treated differently in sentencing considerations, and the amendments would enable particular considerations for young adults, particularly of their maturity. Mr Hall, the independent reviewer, was concerned that, unless these considerations are taken into account, we risk locking people up for too long, building bitterness and a refusal to engage in the prison system, and actually, on eventual release, potentially a greater risk. He considered that longer and more punitive sentences do not in themselves ensure that people are less dangerous on release, and that while extending sentences for serious offenders may, of course, keep them out of our harm’s way for a temporary period, we do not want them to leave prison more dangerous than when they entered.

Early release provides prisoners with the incentive to behave and show that they are capable of reform. We heard powerful evidence that prison staff are at increased risk of harm where hope is lost. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North said, many studies show that young terrorist offenders are much more likely to reform than older offenders, yet the Bill treats a young adult who has just turned 18 the same as an older offender. Are the Secretary of State and the Minister concerned that the Bill effectively gives up on those offenders?

We need to look at the evidence, not the tabloids. We need a flexible response that is offender-based, and it must be tailored. If we really want to enable rehabilitation and reduce the harm to the public, I hope that the Minister will consider the amendment.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I will speak to the amendments relating to younger offenders. There are a couple of things to be clear about first of all. For the sake of absolute clarity, offenders who are under the age of 18 are not subject to the 14-year minimum prison sentence. Only offenders over the age of 18 are subject to those provisions. The amendments relate to offenders aged between 18 and 21, so we are discussing a very specific cohort.

I agree and concur with many points that the shadow Minister and the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth made about rehabilitation, and about the increased opportunity for rehabilitation for younger people. It is of course the case that younger people are more open to change—particularly as their brains mature—than older people, and it is right that we try to work with them to achieve that. I would not dispute that as a general principle, but clause 4 as drafted applies to an extremely small subsection of those offenders aged between 18 and 21. It by no means applies to the generality of offenders, including terrorist offenders, aged 18 to 21. It applies to that narrow subsection who have committed a serious terrorist offence, as we have discussed already, but it also requires a finding by the judge, following a pre-sentence report—something the shadow Minister referred to in his amendment and in his speech—of dangerousness. What a finding of dangerousness means in law is that there is a significant risk of the offender causing serious harm by committing further serious terrorism or other specified offences.

There are already two hurdles to jump: a serious terrorist offence, followed by a finding of dangerousness based on a pre-sentence report. However, there is also a third hurdle that must be jumped before a younger offender aged 18 to 21 would fall into the scope of this clause, which is that, at the time of committing the offence. they were aware, or should have been aware, that their offence was very likely to result in or contribute to multiple deaths. That is a well-established test dating back to section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000. We are talking about an extremely small subsection of offenders aged 18 to 21 and a very small subsection even of terrorist offenders—those who meet all three of those criteria.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I wonder whether it really is true that it is such a small cohort of offenders, because the Bill opens up the number of offences that can be considered severe enough for this sentence to be passed. There may currently be very few, but this new law extends the offences quite considerably—in fact, in some ways, it leaves it quite open for people to determine that a terrorist offence or a terrorist connection is involved. Surely there is more opportunity now for people to be serving this sort of sentence.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The provisions open it up for judges to make a finding of a terrorist connection, but the impact assessment for the Bill refers to a potential increase in the prison population of 50 people. Of course, that is for all ages over 18; if we consider how many of those estimated additional 50 places might be occupied by people aged between 18 and 21, one might reasonably assume that the number at any one time will certainly be less than 10 and possibly even less than five. That is an estimate, but none the less, it appears in the impact assessment.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

It might be helpful, as the Bill progresses, if the Minister could publish some of the facts and the evidence for the claim he has just made about the 50 people and the relatively small number of younger people.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I think the number 50 appears in the impact assessment, and I would be happy to look into the basis for that estimate. As for the number of younger people, that was something that I spontaneously generated, based on the fact that we are talking about a three-year range from 18 to 21, whereas the number of offenders will generally cover all ages, from 18 upwards.

The point I am making is that, while I accept the generality of what the shadow Minister and the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth say about the need to have hope and to have an opportunity to rehabilitate, we are talking about a very small number of very serious offenders, who have been assessed as dangerous following a pre-sentence report and who have engaged in activity likely to cause multiple deaths. In those very serious circumstances, I think it is appropriate, and I think the public would also think it is appropriate, that we protect the public for an extended period, as this Bill does.

If we are talking about other offenders, including terrorist offenders who do not meet that level of seriousness—there are many—all the comments made about rehabilitation and the chance to reform do legitimately apply. Indeed, we heard in evidence earlier today that the proven reoffending rate on release for that sort of offender is between 5% and 10%, which is an extraordinarily low figure compared with other cohorts. That suggests that the rehabilitation work done in prison is effective, as I think our last witness this morning suggested.

It is important, given the assessment of dangerousness that is made, that the pre-sentence report fully reflects the offender’s ability to change and the changes to the brain and so on that take place around the early 20s. That is a point that my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury, who is not with us this afternoon as he is attending the Justice Committee, has made to me. I will discuss with the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my hon. and learned Friend Lucy Frazer—I would not like to get my north, south, east and west muddled up—who is the prisons and probation Minister, whether there is any more we can do to make sure that these pre-sentence reports fully reflect the points that the shadow Minister and the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth have made about people’s ability to change. Those points are relevant in the context of assessing dangerousness, because if someone is undergoing changes, they may be less dangerous than someone who is fixed in their ways. I will take up that point with my hon. and learned Friend.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

The Minister may well be considering whether he is prepared to take the risk with this small cohort of people. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth outlined earlier, these individuals, who could reach middle age before there is any prospect of the state being off their back, are susceptible to further radicalisation in prison and might radicalise others. Surely, therefore, there is an element of risk that needs to be considered so that we can try to balance things.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The cohort that I have described are dangerous, have been found to be dangerous by a judge following a pre-sentence report and have tried to kill multiple people. With this very small number of very dangerous people, who are endangering the lives of our fellow citizens, it is appropriate to prevent them for an extended period of time—a minimum of 14 years—from attacking our fellow citizens in the future. It is a truly exceptional and small cohort.

Speaking of the word “exceptional”, if there are circumstances in relation to these people that a judge thinks are truly exceptional—some extraordinary extenuating circumstances—and that, despite the fact that they have done the terrible things I have described and despite the finding of dangerousness, merit different treatment, the judge has open to them the possibility to make a finding that there is an exceptional circumstance and can derogate from the 14-year minimum. We would expect that to be extremely unusual—indeed, truly exceptional, as the word implies.

Given how dangerous and damaging this very small number of people are, and given our obligation to protect the public, this measure is couched appropriately. There is the ability to not make a finding of dangerousness, having read the pre-sentence report. There is also the ability for the judge to find that an exceptional circumstance applies. That provides more than adequate protection, bearing in mind how dangerous these people are.

As for other offenders, however, I take the point about the need to rehabilitate; rehabilitation is often successful, as we have seen from the figures. As I said, I will talk to my hon. and learned Friend the prisons and probation Minister to make sure that all the relevant information is collected in probation reports, which will help a judge when making a determination on the question of dangerousness.

I would like to briefly respond to a point made by the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth about indeterminate sentences and throwing away the key, as she put it. Of course, the coalition Government legislated—I think it was in 2012—to get rid of the former sentences of imprisonment for public protection, which had been introduced in the early 2000s, whereby people could be left in prison forever, despite not having been given a life sentence. Those sentences were replaced with extended determinate sentences, so the coalition Government, which of course was Conservative-led, legislated to remove, or significantly reduce, that problem of locking people up and throwing away the key, which the hon. Member referred to in her speech.

I hope that I have explained why this measure is appropriate, bearing in mind the small numbers and the extreme danger that these people represent, and I express my support for the Bill as it is currently drafted.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice) 3:30 pm, 30th June 2020

I am grateful to the Minister for his response. However, I am not convinced that we are talking about only a handful of people. The fact that this piece of legislation grows the number of offences that could potentially fall into this cohort suggests that many more people could be caught up in it in the longer term—some of them perhaps not quite such serious offenders as some of those the Minister has described this afternoon.

The Minister says he agrees that we should have an eye to rehabilitation and that we should work hard to achieve rehabilitation. However, if I am right and he is wrong, and we do have dozens or perhaps even more young people falling into this category because of the way the Bill is drafted, there surely need to be some protections there and some opportunity for a pre-sentence report to explore specific issues around age and maturity before reporting to a judge who will make the ultimate decision.

On the basis that this measure could affect many more people than the Minister suggests, and that some of them might not be the most serious offenders, I wish to press the amendment to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Division number 1 Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill — Serious terrorism sentence for adults aged under 21: England and Wales

Aye: 6 MPs

No: 8 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 8.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

In my response to the amendment, I described the effect of the clause and the tests to be applied. If those tests are met, the minimum sentence of 14 years will be imposed, followed by a licence period of not less than seven years and not greater than 25. I beg to move that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 4 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.