No release for terror offenders without review
Following the knife attack in Streatham on 2 February, the government has announced sweeping legal changes to prevent the automatic release of terrorist offenders.
The Justice Secretary Robert Buckland made a House of Commons statement outlining plans for emergency legislation that would stop any terror offenders being released without parole board risk assessments.
The proposals would apply to existing and future offenders, meaning prisoners currently due for release halfway through their sentence could now face years more in prison. It follows the news that neither the police nor the parole board were able to stop the release of 20-year-old Sudesh Amman, who was shot dead by police after he stabbed two people in south London. He was released one week before his attack.
Buckland said: “Yesterday’s [Sunday’s] appalling incident makes the case plainly for immediate action. We cannot have the situation, as we saw tragically in yesterday’s case, where an offender – a known risk to innocent members of the public – is released early by automatic process of law without any oversight by the Parole Board.
“We will be doing everything we can to protect the public, that is our primary duty. We will, therefore, introduce emergency legislation to ensure an end to terrorist offenders getting released automatically having served half of their sentence with no check or review. The underlying principle has to be that offenders will no longer be released early automatically and that any release before the end of their sentence will be dependent on risk assessment by the Parole Board. We face an unprecedented situation of severe gravity, and as such it demands the government responds immediately and that this legislation will apply to serving prisoners.”
However, Lord Carlile, the former reviewer of terror legislation, has warned that the plans may be in breach of the law and are likely to face a legal challenge. The human rights group Liberty also immediately questioned the legality of a retrospective change to sentence conditions.
Clare Collier, advocacy director for Liberty, said: “The government’s response to recent terror attacks is a cause of increasing concern for our civil liberties. From last month’s kneejerk lie detector proposal, to today’s threat to break the law by changing people’s sentences retrospectively, continuing to introduce measures without review or evidence is dangerous and will create more problems than it solves. It’s clear the UK’s counter-terror system is in chaos and desperately needs proper scrutiny and review.”