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

Part of Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 30th June 2020.

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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.