of offence: England and Wales

Part of Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 2nd July 2020.

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Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 12:15 pm, 2nd July 2020

No. The rehabilitation periods are different and lower for children—quite rightly, for the reasons we debated earlier. All we are doing is creating consistency between the rehabilitation period for adults who commit the various offences and the rehabilitation period for children who commit various offences. We are not making the rehabilitation period the same for children as it is for adults.

The purpose of clause 22 is to address a gap in sentencing options for those under 18 who commit a terrorism offence where custodial sentencing options are limited to a maximum two-year detention and training order, due to the offender not meeting the criteria required to impose long-term detention for offences punishable by less than 14 years in custody.

The new sentence ensures that those convicted of a terrorist offence—we are talking about the serious terrorist offences—spend a substantial period of time on licence to enable that very important rehabilitative work to be undertaken in the community, and to limit the risk that they may pose to the public. That will also ensure greater consistency between the approaches towards sentence and release for under-18s and adults, although under-18s will of course be typically serving shorter prison sentences.

Under the current framework, some terrorist offences can attract only a detention and training order of up to two years, with only half that being served in detention, or an extended determinate sentence where the child is considered dangerous and the sentence is at least four years. That is a consequence of the fixed-term sentences under section 91 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, and they are available only for specified offences. Terrorist offences are not a specified category.

As some terrorist offences carry a maximum sentence of less than 14 years, the only custodial sentencing option is therefore the detention and training order. Essentially, the clause fills the gap between those two sentences by creating the SOPC-type offence for under-18s. Of course, the length of sentence will be entirely a matter for the discretion of the judge, and the judge will have the pre-sentence report available in making that determination. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury said in his intervention, that pre-sentence report will include considerations regarding not just the offender’s chronological age but their mental maturity. Judges will of course continue to have discretion to ensure that they are balancing the offender’s maturity with the appropriate kind of sentence.