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

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.