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 Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:15 pm, 30th June 2020

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.