Minimum term order for serious terrorism offenders: England and Wales

Part of Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 2nd July 2020.

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Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 11:45 am, 2nd July 2020

Clause 11, as we have been discussing, amends section 323 of the sentencing code, which makes provision for the setting of a minimum term—a tariff—for discretionary life sentences. It will make sure that, where a life sentence is handed down to an adult offender who is convicted of a serious terrorist offence—which can be considered as a serious terrorism case—for the purpose of setting a minimum term, the provisions of this clause will apply.

The minimum term in a discretionary life sentence is the period that must be served in custody before an offender can be considered for release by the Parole Board. Offenders who are subject to a discretionary life sentence are subject to a life licence following the release. Clause 11 adjusts section 323 of the code so that, where the court considers an offender who requires a life sentence for their offending and has committed a serious terrorism offence, as found in schedule 17A to the sentencing code, an equivalent consideration is made to that for the serious terrorism sentence by requiring the court to consider it as a serious terrorism case.

A serious terrorism case is one where an adult offender has committed a serious terrorism offence and meets the criteria that we discussed previously for a serious terrorism sentence—that is, the court considers them dangerous; they present a serious future risk of harm, which in this context means the prospect of death or serious personal injury resulting; and in the opinion of the court they meet the risk of multiple death condition, which we discussed earlier in connection with serious terrorism sentences. The clause therefore requires the courts to set a minimum term of 14 years, unless exceptional circumstances apply.