Tougher terrorism laws to be introduced within weeks
Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced that terror offenders will face more time in jail and be monitored more closely as part of new, upcoming counter terrorism laws.
Stating that the government had faced ‘hard truths’ since an attack in London in November, Patel said that the Home Office bill would be brought before Parliament by mid-March. Among the proposed laws within the bill is the scrapping of automatic early release from prison for terror offenders while a minimum jail term of 14 years for serious crimes will be introduced.
The so-called Counter-Terrorism Bill would ensure people convicted of serious offences, such as preparing acts of terrorism or directing a terrorist organisation, spend a minimum of 14 years in prison.
Following the November attack, the government launched an urgent review into the licence conditions of 74 terror offenders who had been released early from prison.
Convicted terrorists will also face lie-detector tests, similar to the use within sex offender and domestic abuse trials, while the Home Office also announced that the number of counter terrorism specialist probation officers will double, with plans also mooted to introduce more specialist psychologists and imams to work to de-radicalise offenders. The Home Office also said it would also increase counter terror police funding by £90 million next year - roughly a 10 per cent increase on this year's funding.
The government will also launch a review, led by Jonathan Hall QC, into the way agencies such as police and the probation service investigate, monitor and manage terror offenders.
Patel said: “The senseless terror attack at Fishmongers’ Hall in November confronted us with some hard truths about how we deal with terrorist offenders, which is why we immediately announced a review into sentencing and licence conditions, to do whatever is necessary to stop these sickening attacks from taking place.
“Today we are delivering on those promises, giving police and probation officers the resources they need to investigate and track offenders, introducing tougher sentences, and launching major reviews into how offenders are managed after they are released. We will also review the support available for victims and their families to make sure they receive the help they need.”
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland denied he was ‘rushing’ new counter terror laws and said ministers had to act, otherwise the public would think they were ‘dragging their feet’ on the issue.
Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary, said: “After 10 years in government, a major overhaul now is actually an admission of failure. Major terrorist outrages have occurred all too frequently, including attacks by perpetrators who were known to the security services. The fight against terrorism has been undermined by cuts to policing, including community policing, a lack of effective coordination between police and security services as well as the flawed Prevent programme. All of these need to change if we are going to improve the safety of our citizens.”
Despite lending its backing to proposals for all large venues to adopt bag searches and metal detectors, as recently as 13 January, the funding package excluded any reference to Martyn’s Law - the proposal security put forward by Figen Murray to improve security at all public venues.
Former CT National Coordinator Nick Aldworth was critical of its absence, labelling the announcement as a ‘populist response to an event that only took place about six or seven weeks ago’.
He tweeted: “I’m genuinely disappointed that Martyn’s Law has not featured in today’s announcement. Sentencing does not deter terrorism, secure environments where they cannot operate, do. CT Policing have been calling for Protect Duty since 2017...no more talk, deliver please.”