All 16 contributions to the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 (Ministerial Extracts Only)

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Tue 9th Jun 2020
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons & 2nd reading
Thu 25th Jun 2020
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (First sitting)
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Committee stage: 1st sitting & Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Thu 25th Jun 2020
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Second sitting)
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Committee stage: 2nd sitting & Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
Tue 30th Jun 2020
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Third sitting)
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Committee stage: 3rd sitting & Committee Debate: 3rd sitting: House of Commons
Tue 30th Jun 2020
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Fourth sitting)
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Committee stage: 4th sitting & Committee Debate: 4th sitting: House of Commons
Thu 2nd Jul 2020
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Fifth sitting)
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Committee stage: 5th sitting & Committee Debate: 5th sitting: House of Commons
Thu 2nd Jul 2020
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Sixth sitting)
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Committee stage: 6th sitting & Committee Debate: 6th sitting: House of Commons
Tue 7th Jul 2020
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Seventh sitting)
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Committee stage: 7th sitting & Committee Debate: 7th sitting: House of Commons
Tue 7th Jul 2020
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Eighth sitting)
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Committee stage: 8th sitting & Committee Debate: 8th sitting: House of Commons
Tue 21st Jul 2020
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
Commons Chamber

Report stage & 3rd reading & 3rd reading: House of Commons & Report stage & Report stage: House of Commons & Report stage & 3rd reading
Mon 21st Sep 2020
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Tue 26th Jan 2021
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage
Tue 9th Feb 2021
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 3rd Mar 2021
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Lords Hansard & Report stage
Thu 11th Mar 2021
Mon 22nd Mar 2021
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendments & Consideration of Lords amendments & Consideration of Lords Amendments

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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2nd reading & 2nd reading: House of Commons
Tuesday 9th June 2020

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Commons Chamber
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 Read Hansard Text

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Robert Buckland Portrait The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Robert Buckland)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The first duty of any Government is to protect the public from harm. Combating the unprecedented threat of coronavirus has, of course, been the focus of our energies over the last few months, but as our country begins to open up once again, it is crucial that we maintain our vigilance towards the all too familiar threat of terrorism. As the House will recall, there have been a number of devastating incidents in recent years. The appalling atrocities at Fishmongers’ Hall on 29 November last year and in Streatham on 2 February this year, barely two months apart, were brutal attacks on innocent members of the public just going about their day-to-day lives. Those incidents drove home some hard truths about our approach to managing terrorists in the justice system, with each committed by an offender who had been released automatically halfway through their sentence, with no involvement from the Parole Board. We cannot allow that to happen again.

Following the Streatham attack, we acted swiftly to introduce the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020, which ended the automatic early release of terrorist offenders and ensured that any release before the end of a sentence is dependent on a thorough risk assessment by the Parole Board. I was extremely grateful for the co-operation we received from Members on both sides of the House on that vital piece of legislation, and I was proud of how quickly this place acted to get it on to the statute book. That piece of legislation built on the Government’s plans to bolster the United Kingdom’s response to terrorism and to ensure that we have some of the strongest measures in the world to tackle that threat.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
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The Lord Chancellor mentions the importance of speed in dealing with these situations. Does he agree that we have perhaps not moved fast enough in, for example, proscribing some organisations? I am thinking particularly of extreme right-wing organisations that target the black community, other people of colour, the Jewish community and the gay community. It took years to get System Resistance Network and Sonnenkrieg Division banned by the Government, and there are other organisations out there, such as the Order of Nine Angles, that need to be banned. Does he agree that we need to move further and faster on proscription so that people involved in those organisations can receive the sentences that he is talking about in this legislation?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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The hon. Gentleman knows that the function of proscription is for the Home Secretary. From my knowledge of it, which is not as close as that of my colleague, proscription is a device that should be applied equally, without discrimination. He is absolutely right to talk about the rise of far-right extremism. At this Dispatch Box and elsewhere, I have readily acknowledged the fact that out in our community, sadly, and in our prison system, we have a proportion of far-right wing terrorists who have been convicted and brought to justice. What I would say about those individual examples is that wherever there is evidence of activities that amounts to grounds for proscription, I know that this Home Secretary—indeed, like her predecessors—will act with alacrity. Of course, her predecessor did in the instances that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, so I assure him that the Government will work within the law and apply it equally to all groups and organisations that pose a direct threat to our way of life. That is what we are talking about here.

I was dealing with the measures that we announced in the aftermath of the atrocity at Fishmongers’ Hall. In the current financial year, 2020-21, we have increased funding for counter-terrorism policing by £90 million. We announced a review for the support for victims of terrorism, with a further £500,000 being provided to the Victims of Terrorism Unit. We then announced our plans to double the number of counter-terrorism specialist probation staff. We are also working to increase the places that are available in probation hostels, so that authorities can keep closer tabs on terrorists in the weeks after their release from prison. Of course there is also the independent review—led by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Jonathan Hall, QC—of the way in which different agencies investigate, monitor and manage terrorist offenders. This was just the first stage of our response, because these attacks clearly demonstrated the need for terrorist offenders to spend longer in prison and to be subject to more stringent monitoring in the community.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I am very conscious that although we are looking at the recent period, at those who were involved in ISIS and Daesh attacks in London and elsewhere, IRA terrorism is clearly a strong issue, as was illustrated last week when there was a bomb and arms find in Londonderry. When it comes to sentencing, I ask that those who are involved in IRA terrorism, who are convicted in this jurisdiction—on the mainland—will not receive any reduction in the sentences that they receive if they are transferred back to Northern Ireland, for instance. I seek that assurance from the Secretary of State—that IRA terrorists will get the full brunt of the law and not get away with a reduced sentence if they are sent back home.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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The hon. Gentleman can be reassured that the whole purpose of this UK-wide legislation is not to discriminate between different types of terrorists. It would be wholly wrong for this legislation, for example, to focus on so-called Islamic terrorism, as opposed to far-right terrorism, the Provisional IRA and irregular republican, or indeed, irregular terrorism of a general nature within Northern Ireland or any other part of the United Kingdom. This is not discriminatory legislation. It is designed to deal with terrorism in all its forms, and I believe that this legislation is also agile when it comes to dealing with and anticipating the enduring challenge of how to manage terrorists in whatever form they might come. As we know, terrorism is evolving and taking different forms all the time.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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My right hon. and learned Friend mentions a couple of cases, including Fishmongers’ Hall. Does that not illustrate the great range of problems that have to be addressed? In recent times, was there not a case where someone had to be released even though people were sure he would reoffend at the first opportunity—he did so, and had to be trailed and stopped by an MI5 team—whereas at Fishmongers’ Hall, was the problem not that the person had claimed to be reformed and that there was no reason, apparently, not to release him? It will have to be a very comprehensive piece of legislation to cope with such a wide range of problems.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend, who speaks with experience of these matters. He helps me to outline the point I was about to make about the complex and evolving nature of the threat. He is right to talk about different types of threat: superficial compliance, which we saw, sadly, with regard to Fishmongers’ Hall; and known threat, but with an inability of the authorities, due to the current regime, to manage that within custodial settings, and the paraphernalia, cost and sheer planning that has then to be undertaken to try to deal with and manage the threat in the community.

I must pay tribute to the teams who worked so hard at Streatham to minimise what could have been an even more horrific incident on that Sunday afternoon on Streatham High Road. I well remember looking at the detail of what the teams did that day and being lost in sheer admiration for their bravery and professionalism in dealing with a terrible incident that could have involved very serious loss of life. The work of looking at the detailed facts will go on by way of an independent inquest. We will, of course, look precisely at the outcome of that, and at the serious further offence reviews, which are ongoing but will conclude very shortly. They will help to supplement the excellent work done by Jonathan Hall in his review of MAPPA—multi-agency public protection arrangements.

I was explaining that the announcements we made some months ago were but the first stage of our response. The step-up response to counter-terrorism is very much at the heart of what I and the Government are about. The legislation we are now introducing will ensure that the process for how we at each stage deal with both convicted terrorist offenders and those who pose a concern of becoming terrorist offenders will be strengthened. We are determined to ensure that those who commit serious acts of terror and put members of the public at risk serve sentences that properly reflect the harm they cause.

The Bill will reform the sentences which can be handed down to terror offenders by introducing a new category of sentence. The serious terrorism sentence, for the most serious and dangerous terrorist offenders, will carry a minimum period of 14 years of custody, with an extended licence period of up to 25 years. That sentence will apply to only the most serious and dangerous terrorist offenders who would otherwise receive a life sentence: those who have been found guilty of an offence where there was a high likelihood of causing multiple deaths.

The Bill also introduces further provisions for terrorist offenders who have been assessed to be dangerous, and who have committed a sufficiently serious offence, to spend the entirety of their sentence in custody without the prospect of early release. In addition to spending that full term in prison, the courts will be able to apply longer extended licence periods of up to 10 years for those offenders, so we can continue to supervise them once they are allowed back into the community. Any breach would put them straight back into prison.

In February, I announced that the Government would review sentencing for terrorist offenders, including whether current maximum penalties for terrorist offences were sufficient. Following that review, the Bill proposes to increase the maximum penalty for three specific terrorism offences: first, membership of a proscribed organisation; secondly, supporting a proscribed organisation; and thirdly, attending a place used for terrorist training. The maximum term is currently 10 years, but will be increased to 14, which sends a clear message about how serious the Government consider that type of offending and is consistent with existing penalties for similarly serious terrorist offences.

Another outcome of the review included in the Bill is an amendment to the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, which will enable the courts to find any offence with a maximum penalty of more than two years to have a terrorist connection. The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation noted that that would be a useful change. It will give the courts more flexibility to reflect the facts of each case fully in the sentence that they may wish to pass.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
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Minister, those who are involved in terrorism may have—

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
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Madam Deputy Speaker, I endeavour to follow your instructions and I will do my best.

I seek assurance that those who are involved in terrorist activity, be it providing safe houses, physical assistance, cars or weapons, and who play a smaller role will also feel the brunt of the sentencing for their minor role in a bigger terrorist atrocity.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I can reassure the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, there have been developments in terrorism law since the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974, which he will remember, then the Terrorism Act 2000 and the Acts that followed the atrocity of 9/11, which saw a development and evolution in the law that allowed a wider penumbra of people who supported, encouraged or facilitated that type of serious offending to be brought before the courts.

I was explaining that the particular measure to which I was drawing the House’s attention allows the courts to find a terrorist connection in offences that are not specifically terrorism or terrorism-related; they might be offences under a different type of Act, such as an offence of violence or an acquisitive crime. If there is enough evidence to satisfy the criminal standard of proof that there is a terrorism connection, the court can use that as an aggravating factor in increasing the level of sentence given to that particular offender.

That will result in more offenders being managed through the registered terrorist offender notification requirements and will ensure that operational partners can effectively manage that risk on release so that no terrorism-connected offender should fall through the cracks. Taken together, the sentencing provisions will reduce the threat posed to the public by incapacitating dangerous terrorists and will maximise the time that the authorities have to work with offenders, giving offenders more time in which to disengage from their dangerous and deeply entrenched ideologies.

The recent terror attacks demonstrated the importance of improving and maximising our capability to monitor offenders in the community. The Bill introduces a range of measures to allow the Government to intervene more effectively where required. Time spent on licence is crucial in monitoring and managing offenders in the community, and also in giving them the opportunity and support to change their behaviour to desist and disengage from terrorism.

Right hon. and hon. Members were rightly concerned during the passage of the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020 that terrorist offenders released at the end of their sentence would not be subject to licence supervision when released. This legislation takes vital steps to extend the scope of the special sentence for offenders of particular concern to cover all terrorist offences with a maximum penalty of more than two years. That will mean that any terrorist offenders convicted of an offence covered by the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act will no longer be able to receive a standard determinate sentence, but will instead face a minimum period of supervision on licence of 12 months, even if they are released at the end of their custodial term.

The Bill will also strengthen the licence conditions to which terrorist offenders are subject by making available polygraph testing as a condition of their licence. We believe that that will help probation staff to monitor compliance with the other licence conditions—such as contact with named individuals, entering exclusion zones or accessing material that promotes or relates to acts of terrorism—imposed on offenders. Research has shown that mandatory polygraph testing for adult sexual offenders can be an effective risk-management tool; extending that to certain terrorist offenders will therefore enhance our ability to monitor them in the community.

In addition, the measures in the Bill will maximise the effectiveness of the existing disruptions and risk-management toolkit available to counter-terrorism policing and our security services. That toolkit can be used alongside licence conditions for those serving a licence period after sentence, or with individuals of terrorism concern who have not otherwise been convicted.

Prosecution and conviction are always our preference for dealing with terrorists, but in the limited instances in which we cannot prosecute, deport or otherwise manage an individual of terrorism concern, terrorism prevention and investigation measures—known as TPIMs—are a crucial tool for protecting the public. The Bill makes a number of changes to TPIMs to increase their value as a risk-management tool and support their use by operational partners in cases when it is considered necessary. The changes include lowering the standard of proof for imposing a TPIM notice, specifying new measures that can be applied to TPIM subjects, and removing the current two-year limit from which a TPIM notice can last, to ensure that we are better equipped to manage individuals of significant concern who pose a continued threat.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
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Is the Secretary of State aware of cases in respect of which he, the Home Secretary or others think that a TPIM should have been granted but could not be because the burden of proof was set at the wrong level?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I am sure the right hon. Lady will understand that it would be a little invidious of me to go into individual cases, but she will know from her long experience of this issue, and control orders previously, that TPIMs and control orders are complex and resource-intensive mechanisms that require a high degree of planning and continued monitoring, so decisions made to apply for them are never entered into lightly. By returning the position on the standard of proof to the one that existed some years ago, the Bill creates a more flexible means of monitoring, rather than a system that does, and did, require a higher standard of proof. It is not my wish or the wish of the Government to see an overdependence on TPIMs to the exclusion of other types of disposal.

It is still very much the Government’s view that prosecution and conviction is absolutely our priority, but experience has shown that the judicious use of this type of measure is not only lawful and proportionate but necessary when we cannot meet the high standard of proof that the right hon. Lady knows exists in criminal prosecution. It is my view that although TPIMs have never been the complete solution to the problem, they are an invaluable additional tool that the security services and all of us need when it comes to managing this complex problem. The right hon. Lady will be reassured that according to the latest published figures the number of TPIMs in force is currently five. I do not believe that the changes we bring in will act as any incentive or artificial stimulus to a sudden change in the way that the measures are used.

Forgive me, Madam Deputy Speaker, if I dwell at length on the point made the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee. I have noticed, certainly from my time as a Law Officer, that from the middle part of this decade we saw a welcome increase in the number of prosecutions, particularly of returning foreign fighters. That showed that where we put the resources and the will into investigation we can make the prosecutorial system work well. Maintaining that focus, but then adapting, refining and modernising the system as we are doing in this Bill, strikes the right balance in terms of the need to protect the public and to adhere to those principles of liberty, the individual and the rule of law that all of us in this House share.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I will give way to the Chairman of the Justice Committee.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill
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I have a lot of sympathy with the point that my right hon. and learned Friend makes about the value that TPIMs can have as part of the armoury, so to speak, in dealing with these matters. May I draw him back to the point about the change in the burden of proof? The increase in the burden of proof to the current standard was specifically in response to a recommendation from the then independent reviewer, Lord Anderson. The current independent reviewer, Mr Hall QC, has made no such recommendation to reduce the burden proof, as is proposed here. That is a striking difference. What we are trying to get to is this: what is it that triggers this change in the burden of proof without some evidence, either by way of recommendation or some hard fact to demonstrate it?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I absolutely accept and understand the motivation behind my hon. Friend’s intervention, and he makes such a recommendation not just as Chair of the Select Committee, but as a guardian of the principles of the rule of law, which, after all, is what we, as a nation, are trying to defend against those who would kill, shoot and bomb their way into power and influence. He can be reassured that this—if you like—reversion to the previous standard of proof is all about making sure that we have as agile a tool as possible, bearing in mind the rapidly changing nature of the terrorist threat that we face. It is vital that we make sure that, when applications for TPIMs are made, they can be done not only in such a way that there is clearly an evidential basis and those grounds exist, but in a way that means they can be effective and as rapidly implemented as possible. The focus of the TPIM and the number of people on it will change, adapt and evolve according to the constant and the changing nature of the threats.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
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I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. The point made by the Chair of the Justice Committee is very well made. Not only has the current independent reviewer of terrorism, Jonathan Hall QC, not recommended the change, but he has specifically questioned the basis for the change. So again, is the Lord Chancellor able to clearly articulate for us why this change in the burden of proof is necessary?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady for her question. Indeed, in the lengthy answers that I am giving, I am trying to do just that. What I am trying to explain is—I know that she knows this—that the TPIM mechanism is not something that is entered upon lightly. It involves a high degree of resource and a high intensity of resource management. It is a self-evident truth that the resources of the state, however large they may be, are not infinite and therefore choices and priorities have to be allocated. What I can assure the House of is that of course every time we assess that the grounds are met and that there is a risk, we will act. That is what our security services do, day in, day out, for us. What I am saying is that the change in the threshold creates that greater agility. I accept that it will be a lower standard, yes, but the reason for that is to allow for greater flexibility when our operational partners come to apply them.    



I was talking about the importance of TPIMs’ use being proportionate. I believe that the annual review of TPIMs, which is going to be part of this process to qualify the question about their indefinite duration, strikes the right balance between the need for vigilance and control against the need for those basic civil liberties that we all guard jealously to be maintained. Let us not forget that where it is no longer necessary or proportionate to extend a particular TPIM for the purposes of public protection, that TPIM will be revoked. That check and balance is very much at the heart of the regimen that we are proposing in the Bill.

The Bill also amends legislation governing serious crime prevention orders. Those are civil orders imposed by the courts that protect the public by preventing, restricting or disrupting an individual’s involvement in serious crime, which of course includes terrorism. The Bill supports the use of these orders in terrorist-related cases by allowing counter-terrorism policing to make a direct application to the High Court for a serious crime prevention order. We are therefore streamlining that process. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation has noted that these mechanisms are at the moment an under-utilised tool in terrorism cases, and I believe that by streamlining the process we will see a greater reliance upon them.

We are also adding the offences of breaching a TPIM notice and breaching a temporary exclusion order to the list of relevant terrorism offences that can trigger the registered terrorist offender notification requirements. Again, the independent reviewer has publicly confirmed his support for that change. The regime requires individuals aged 16 or over who have been sentenced to 12 months or more in custody for a relevant terrorism offence to provide certain information about changes in their circumstances, such as their address, to the police and to notify them of any foreign travel plans. Together, these changes strengthen our ability to manage the risk posed by those of terrorism concern in our community, including those who have been released from prison without a period on licence.

The Bill also reforms how we deal with terrorist offenders under the age of 18. We recognise, of course, that there is a separate sentencing framework for that category of offenders, and that it has distinct purposes and aims that differ from those relating to adult offenders. We have carefully considered which measures it would be appropriate to apply to under 18-year-olds in developing this proposed legislation. Although we remain firm in our aim to ensure that custody should be used only where absolutely necessary, it is a sad and inescapable fact that some young people are susceptible to radicalisation or to the adoption of extremist views, and that among those, there are a few who pose a very serious threat to the public.

The Bill will therefore ensure that the courts have the right range of tools at their disposal to deal with those under the age of 18 who commit serious terrorist or terrorist-related offences. We will do that by introducing a youth equivalent to the special sentence for offenders of particular concern. This will mean that, if convicted of terrorist offences serious enough to warrant custody, these offenders will serve a fixed period on licence once they have been released into the community. This will ensure that they receive an appropriate level of supervision. We are also replicating the changes to the extended determinate sentence to ensure better public protection from young terrorist offenders who have been assessed as dangerous. This removes Parole Board consideration of the two-thirds point for the most serious terrorism offences, and in the interests of public protection, it gives the courts the option to apply an extension period of up to 10 years on licence. I accept that this is an exceptional series of measures, but we are dealing with an exceptional type of offending.

Rushanara Ali Portrait Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab)
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Can the Secretary of State explain, first, what additional resources will be made available within the prison system to ensure that those who commit terror offences are not then left there to radicalise other young offenders? That has been a huge concern, and the Government have been pretty lacklustre in dealing with it. Secondly, when they are released, what resources and support will be made available to local authorities and other partnerships to ensure that other young people are not susceptible to their influence? It is one thing to sentence, but quite another to deal with the underlying challenges in communities.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that issue. I can give her the strongest reassurance that, though at times it might appear, from some of the coverage of how terrorism is monitored in prison, that our system is failing, it is not. There are many aspects of the counter-terrorism regimen in our prisons that are world leading and which other countries are learning from and coming to us for help and advice on. I can say this about our recent announcement: the doubling of the number of specialist probation officers, and imams with specialist training, will further improve the way we deal with terrorism both inside prisons and in the community.

I can reassure the hon. Lady that, after 2017, when the Home Office and my Department came together with the joint extremism unit that deals with terrorism, a visitor to a prison with a particular specialism—Belmarsh, for example—would have seen embedded in the command and control structure police officers, probation officers, all parts of the system working jointly around a particular offender: not just monitoring but anticipating and understanding the trends, themes and information emerging. A lot of this is of a sensitive nature and it would be wrong of me to dwell too heavily upon the detail, but I can say that we have created separation centres. Those are challenging, as one should not use them on a whim and there needs to be a clear basis on which to separate individuals of known extremism from the rest of the prison population. Otherwise, there is a danger of creating an even more worrying unit or cadre of individuals who feed off each other and whose agenda of hate and terror is only entrenched by their being separated from the rest of the prison community.

The hon. Lady is right to say there is a challenging balance to be reached between separation and the danger of the proselytization of these views among other more susceptible members of the prison community, but we have the resources and are ploughing them in. The Bill is only part of the step-up approach I announced earlier this year. She can be reassured that not only is the work being done in prisons but—to deal with her point about the community—the specialist probation officers will have a community role as well. Furthermore, as I will refer to shortly, the statutory review of Prevent will give us all an opportunity to hone, improve and refine our approach to terrorism within the community.

Crispin Blunt Portrait Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con)
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When I was Prisons Minister between 2010 and 2012, we abolished control orders, to which we are returning, because of the inflexibilities they created. I will speak on that in my main remarks. Will not the inflexibilities and the mandatory elements in the Bill make significantly more difficult the job of those most brilliant people in the Prison Service engaged in the rehabilitation of this most difficult class of offenders?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I pay tribute to the work my hon. Friend did in my Department at the beginning of the coalition Government. He is right that in many instances the removal of flexibility in sentencing can pose huge challenges, but we are dealing with an exceptional cohort—a small group of people whose type of offending is very different in my view from the mainstream of other types of offender. As he knows, I have worked in the system for many years, and I have seen individuals capable of the most astonishing rehabilitation, who have turned away from crime and gone on to lead blameless lives, but I am afraid that within this cadre of people there is a stubborn minority who are not capable of rehabilitation, who might show superficial signs of co-operation but whose agenda remains unchanged and undeterred and whose chosen path remains the same, even many years later. That is the sad reality of terrorism and I make no apology for taking an exceptional course to deal with an exceptionally difficult, troublesome, and dangerous group of people.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty
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The Lord Chancellor is being incredibly generous in giving way. He will be aware of the tragic circumstances in which young people in my constituency were recruited to Daesh/ISIS, and that the perpetrator of neo-Nazi actions a couple of years ago in Grangetown was only 19. It is right to focus on issues that relate to young people, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say a little more about the specialist probation officers, and about what training skills they will be given to look at the increasingly sophisticated way that some of these individuals engage online? As he said, they might be superficially engaging in face-to-face conversations, but then having a completely different set of conversations online, including through gaming platforms.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I know the hon. Gentleman’s community very well through my work in the criminal justice system. It sounds as if his community has particular criminal justice problems—that would be an insult, as it is a diverse and lively community that I know very well indeed. From that knowledge, I know that he represents a wide and wonderfully diverse range of cultures and views in the great city of Cardiff. He can be reassured that online work is as important as any offline interaction. I am impressed by the constant attention to renewal when it comes to the training of probation officers, and there is an acknowledgement that the threat is constantly evolving. The sad reality of the tender ages of some of these perpetrators is something we had to acknowledge in the Bill, hence the measures we are taking.

I was talking about the statutory review of Prevent. As we know, there was a deadline in statute for the completion of that review. We are having to change that, which is unfortunate and not something we wanted. We know there was a difficulty with the process, and Lord Carlile had to step down. We are engaging in a full and open competition to appoint the next independent reviewer, which is what the House would want; it has to be open and independent. We want to give the new reviewer the time necessary to carry out the review, so the statutory deadline will be removed. That does not in any way diminish my commitment, or that of the Home Secretary, to the success of the review, or our determination for it to be done properly and at speed. Our aim is for the review to conclude, with the Government response, by August next year.

In response to an intervention from the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) I made the point that, perhaps unusually for a criminal justice Bill, this Bill has UK-wide application, because of the devolution settlement and the question of reserved matters when it comes to counter-terrorism. We have committed to ensuring that the seriousness of terrorist offending is treated equally across the three jurisdictions of the UK, and that we are able to protect all our citizens. We owe it to the people of Northern Ireland, of Scotland, and of England and Wales, not to discriminate in any way or to create false and unhelpful distinctions between all corners of our kingdom. To that end, the provisions will apply equally to the three jurisdictions. That includes applying the measures that we took in the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020, in full, to Northern Ireland.

Stephen Farry Portrait Stephen Farry (North Down) (Alliance)
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Does the Lord Chancellor recognise that, despite supporting the Bill overall, the Minister for Justice in Northern Ireland has expressed some concerns about the extension of those provisions to Northern Ireland, and raised some potential inadvertent and unintended consequences that would be undesirable?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman was good enough to write to me and I can reassure him that I have spoken directly in an official capacity on several occasions to the Justice Minister, who was of course a distinguished Member of this House in the 2010 Parliament. I know she is a dedicated public servant who is reviving the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland in an important way. I have of course discussed these matters carefully with her and considered them. She makes some important points about the sensitivity of polygraph testing, which I well understand, and the regime for youth offenders, which is a particular passion of hers.

The hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry) will know that when I considered retrospective application to Northern Ireland in February, I was careful not to rush into doing that in an emergency Bill. That was because I respected the devolution settlement and some of the differences in our approaches in various parts of the kingdom. I assure him that, having reflected, taken the appropriate steps and considered the matter in the round, I now believe that the provisions of article 7 of the European convention on human rights will not be affected by the measures I wish to take. It is important that we ensure that there is equal treatment of all types of terrorist offender throughout the kingdom.

Earlier, I made the point that I do not want the legislation to be discriminatory. That underlies my approach and I therefore intend to move ahead. Of course, it is a matter for the Administration in Stormont, but I very much hope that they will grant legislative consent. That is what I am seeking and that applies to the Scottish Government as well. My discussions with the Justice Minister in Northern Ireland and the Justice Secretary in Scotland, with whom I have a good professional relationship, will continue so that, with the consent of both legislatures, we can press forward with what I hope will be UK-wide legislation. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention.

We know all too well the consequences that face us when terrorists are given sentences that are just not long enough, when they are released too early or when the arrangements to supervise them in the community are not robust enough. It is abundantly clear that the law failed the victims of Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham. I believe that the comprehensive set of measures in the Bill helps to put that right. By strengthening our hand at each stage of the process of dealing with terrorist offenders, it represents our determination to do everything in our power to ensure that the public are protected.

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con)
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I apologise to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to the Chamber for arriving late. I was at a Defence Committee meeting. My right hon. and learned Friend will know that the post-covid world we enter will be very different security-wise from the one we left. That distraction is being used by our adversaries, including terrorists, to regroup, rearm and retrain. Does he agree that this is not the time to reduce our security or defence budgets and that we must remain on our guard?

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend is right to remind us all of the need for constant vigilance. He described the current covid crisis as a distraction; it is a serious and grave crisis and all Governments must give their energy, heart and soul to dealing with it. However, he is right that there is a risk that we take our eye off the ball when it comes to security and defence. We are not doing that. At no stage are the Government doing that. That is why we are putting more resources into counter-terrorism and the Bill is just part of that.

The rapid passage of the emergency Bill a few months ago represented Parliament at its best: acting swiftly to take the urgent steps necessary to keep all our constituents safe from harm. That legislation was a necessary step then, but now we must finish the job. I hope that the Government will have the full support of hon. Members across the House in doing just that.

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Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill
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That is very generous—characteristically so—of the right hon. Gentleman. This is something that, as he rightly observes, has nothing to do with party. Any of us who has lived in any of our great cities has lived with the reality of that risk from time to time. That is why, to return to my point, we must try to get the detail right as well as the broad thrust.

There is much in the Bill that I support, and I shall certainly support it on Second Reading. I think we all accept that, precisely because of the particular nature of Islamist terrorism, the threat of which we now have to confront—the way it seems to warp an ideology even more particularly and more deep-rootedly than many other political motivations—it requires particular care in its handling.

There is no doubt—we have seen it in some of the cases that have been referred to, and it is well established by those who have researched these matters—that those who have been attracted to that ideology frequently present as particularly manipulative and are sometimes adept, as the Lord Chancellor has observed in previous debates, at hiding their motivations for a considerable time. It is therefore is all the harder for the authorities to make an assessment about when it is safe for them to be released, so it is not at all unreasonable that we should have particular types of regimes for sentencing, rehabilitation and release to deal with the particular types of threat that can arise from this particular class of offending.

That said, there are legitimate concerns, which must be raised, about whether we are still getting this right. I do not think any Government have ever got it wholly right. We always have to learn as we go along, as greater awareness and understanding become apparent. That is no criticism of anyone in this context.

I agree with the point that the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) made about the work of Ian Acheson. Mr Acheson’s report was most important and significant and, I think, extremely valuable. He gave compelling evidence to the Justice Committee at the time he brought it out. I have always regarded it as a matter of regret that that report was not more fully implemented. Much of it was, but I still think that there may be bits that we ought to look at.

Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I am extremely grateful to the Chair of the Justice Committee for giving way. He is helping to develop the debate in an extremely productive way. I can assure him that I have engaged regularly with Ian Acheson, whose work I respect hugely. Eight of those 11 recommendations were carried out. There was one in particular, with regard to Friday prayers, that we did not think was necessary. However, things have moved on considerably in the four years since that important report. I speak with the benefit of having been into some of these institutions, of engaging weekly with members of JEXU and of getting frontline information that gives me a higher degree of confidence that there is indeed a plan, a strategy and an approach that is yielding benefits. There is more to do, but there is far more out there than perhaps is fully appreciated.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill
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I am grateful to the Lord Chancellor for that intervention. I know that he takes this immensely seriously on a personal level as well as an official level. We ought to be prepared to engage with all expertise in this field. He is right to keep things under review, and I hope that he will continue to use the expertise of Mr Acheson and others who worked with him on that report to inform our best practice.

I visited a young offenders institution where a young girl who had been suborned into this dreadful ideology was being held on remand. She was no doubt going to receive a very substantial sentence, such was the gravity of the matters in which she had become involved, but because of her age, it was inevitable that at some point she would have to be released. Having a means of doing that safely is profoundly important, but I accept also that it is profoundly difficult because it is well established that the pre-indicators that we find in relation to general criminality are often not available to be picked up in this type of case. So I totally understand where the Government are coming from in that regard. That is why, as I said, I do not have a problem with the basic thrust of the changes to the regime that the Bill proposes.

The other point, which has been picked up in the debate by Members on both sides of the House and in interventions, is that the whole purpose of our standing up against terrorism, from whatever source it comes, is to protect our basic values as a society, which are underpinned, perhaps more fundamentally than almost anything else, by a commitment to the rule of law. Anything that seeks to drive us away from that, or inadvertently causes us to move away from that, ironically serves in its own insidious way to assist the terrorist cause rather than our own. I do not think for one second that any Government—none of the Governments who have had to confront this going back to the time I was talking about when I was a young man—have ever sought to do that deliberately.

We have to be particularly alert to that risk, and that is why I hope that when we look at the detail of the Bill we will take on board the need to ensure that we continue safeguards in this regard. That is one reason why it was a good thing that we appointed an independent reviewer of terrorism in the first place. I am a great believer in independent inspectorates, be they of the Prison Service, probation, the Crown Prosecution Service or education services. The same applies to the desirability of having a robust independent reviewer, and we have always had those in the shape of distinguished lawyers. That is why I have a concern about the burden of proof in relation to terrorism prevention and investigation measures. The initial changes were driven, as has been pointed out and I said in my intervention, in response to specific recommendations from the independent reviewer.

The current independent reviewer, Mr Jonathan Hall, QC, supports and endorses a number of changes that the Bill makes, and I think that is powerful evidence in the Lord Chancellor’s favour in relation to many elements of the Bill. But that actually makes it all the more striking that the change to the burden of proof in relation to TPIMs does not arise from anything that the independent reviewer has sought, or anything that the independent reviewer has advocated. His silence on that point, as opposed to other areas where I would suggest that he has given valuable external support to the Government’s position, is therefore striking, and that is why we must be particularly careful about how we deal with this matter. It is a little bit like putting the other side to proof, if I can put it that way.

There may well be a good reason for that, and I am sure that the Lord Chancellor would not reinforce the proposal unless he genuinely believed there was, but I think we have to be able to set a reason before the public as well. I accept that there are pressures in terms of resource and the amount of time it takes to bring forward one of these measures. I accept, too, that the Lord Chancellor observes that it is therefore not done lightly. That is all perfectly fair, but if we are going to make that change—after all, I was a junior member of the coalition Government who made the change in the opposite direction, away from control orders, as has already been observed—we ought always to be able to do it on the basis of the clearest evidence. With every respect, I am not quite sure that we have yet got the clarity of evidence that I would like to see to satisfy me on that point.

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Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
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I am grateful to the Chairman of the Select Committee for his indulgence. I was talking about the need for flexibility. That is why we are making the change. I served on the Committee that considered the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill in 2011, and I followed the developments in the law very carefully, but it is right that we act on the advice and support of the security services and all those involved in the monitoring of offenders, and it is because of that need for flexibility that we judge it right to make the change now. I hope that that is clear.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Lord Chancellor makes the point very clearly, and I fully understand that, but I do just juxtapose it with the observation by Mr Hall, QC, in his note dated 2 June, in which he says:

“In these circumstances it is not clear why there is any need to change the law in the manner proposed. Steps to reduce the resource burden of obtaining TPIMs are already in hand. The courts have not found that the current approach is wrong.”

There may be an argument for flexibility, but we cannot say that it comes from the independent reviewer, so I wonder where it does come from.

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Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
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We in the Scottish National party take our duty to protect the public from all serious crime, including terrorism, very seriously, as our record in government in Scotland shows. We have a number of reservations about the Bill, which I shall outline, but like the official Opposition we do not intend to divide the House. We intend to take a constructive but critical approach. To that end, we will play a full part in the Bill Committee.

I thank the Lord Chancellor and his colleagues for the engagement that we have had to date on the Bill. I look forward to further discussions about the Scottish National party’s and the Scottish Government’s concerns. I also thank the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) and the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) for the constructive discussions that we have had prior to Second Reading. It is fair to say that the Scottish National party shares many of the official Opposition’s concerns about the Bill. We note that those concerns relate to matters about which the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has also expressed reservations. That is to say, they are responsible concerns.

No discussion about terrorist legislation in this House should take place without parliamentarians taking the opportunity to extend their deepest sympathies to all those who have suffered bereavement or injury as a result of terrorist acts. I look back to the past, particularly in Northern Ireland and indeed the whole island of Ireland in that respect. On behalf of the SNP, I also pay tribute to the brave members of our police and security services, first responders, those in the Prison Service, probation officers and those who work in rehabilitation. All those people have to deal with the consequences of terrorism. We have heard some moving tributes to them. I also pay tribute to the brave bystanders who have intervened to help others in the immediate aftermath of terrorist attacks.

Many of the provisions in the Bill relate to sentencing, which is of course a devolved matter. Discussions are ongoing between my colleague Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s Justice Secretary, and the Lord Chancellor. Of course, there will need to be a legislative consent motion. I will outline the concerns that I share with the Scottish Government and my colleagues in the Scottish Government about the sentencing aspects of the Bill, as well as the use of polygraphs, the changes to TPIMs and the provisions regarding the review of the Prevent strategy. I want to make it clear that I do so from this viewpoint: it is the Scottish National party’s aim that our communities in Scotland are inclusive, empowered and resilient, so they can resist those sowing the seeds of division that can lead to radicalisation and terrorism.

The Bill has some far-reaching changes in it, with implications for human rights as well as policy, and the Scottish Government have already expressed their concerns directly with the Lord Chancellor, as I have done with his junior colleagues. I know that the UK Government, in relation to this Bill at least, realise that they need to work closely with Members of all parties and with the devolved Administrations, because that is what is necessary to ensure effective counter-terrorism measures across the United Kingdom and in Northern Ireland. I hope that this consideration will be at the forefront of the Minister’s mind as the Bill pilots its way through the House.

On the issue of sentencing, I am pleased that the UK Government are following the Scottish Government’s lead in ending automatic early release for the most serious offenders. Some time has now passed since the Scottish Government introduced a change to the effect that no long-term prisoner—four years or over—would be eligible for automatic early release after two thirds of their sentence. However, I am far from convinced—as I know others are far from convinced—that simply locking up terrorists for longer and then providing longer supervision on release is going to do much to deradicalise terrorist offenders.

The Bill will require the courts to ensure that certain terrorist offenders receive a custodial sentence of a certain minimum length and that a minimum length of supervision applies on release. In that respect it is a form of minimum mandatory sentencing, which is against the general approach in Scotland. However, it is not completely new to the justice system in Scotland, and that is why discussions are ongoing with my colleague, the Scottish Justice Secretary.

Sentencing is only a small part of the answer to terrorism, however. What happens during the sentence also matters, and, to date, deradicalisation and disengagement programmes have been largely underfunded and poorly executed. That is not my view; that is the view of Nazir Afzal, the former chief Crown prosecutor for the north-west of England. He is an experienced lawyer and a prosecutor worth listening to. He says that this has happened as a direct consequence of the decision by successive Conservative Governments to cut funding to probation and other rehabilitation programmes. The costs of extensive post-release surveillance far outweigh the costs of adequate funding for preventive measures and deradicalisation. I wonder whether the Lord Chancellor agrees with me and Mr Afzal on that point, and whether he is in a position to assure the House that sufficient funds and resources will be made available to deal with preventive and deradicalisation programmes in prison.

Can the Lord Chancellor also assure me that the Bill will not turn out to be counterproductive by leading to less parole, less offender management and less incentive to behave well during a sentence and to attempt deradicalisation? In this respect it will be interesting to hear what the professionals who work in the area of offender management and parole have to say about the Bill, and I look forward to the Bill Committee’s evidence sessions. I am pleased that will there be more than one of those—

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
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Three? Excellent.

The hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) raised the issue of polygraphs. He will be aware that in Scotland’s justice system, polygraph testing is not used as a mechanism to monitor compliance with licence conditions or any kind of orders. Indeed, it is not used at all. The reason we have chosen not to use it is the lack of evidence of its effectiveness. If the provisions of the Bill were to apply in Scotland, that would require a significant shift in policy and practice and could also have significant implications for investment in infrastructure. In Scotland, we already have mechanisms in place to monitor compliance with licence conditions and conditions associated with statutory justice orders. These include supervision by justice social workers and the use of electronic monitoring for high-risk offenders. There is a multi-agency public protection arrangement—MAPPA. Under that procedure, those assessed as high or very high risk and who require multi-agency management are subject to a regular review. In Scotland, individuals convicted of terrorism-related offences can be managed under that MAPPA approach, and there are indeed a small number of cases that have been managed in this

More generally on the issue of polygraph testing, I note, as has already been said, that the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation expressed some concerns about the lack of pilots and emphasised that there would therefore be a very strong case for very thorough post-legislative scrutiny of the measures. I look forward to hearing what the Minister summing up has to say in response to that point.

On TPIMs, much of what I have to say has already been canvassed. Clearly, the amendments would: reverse the changes to the burden of proof, lowering the burden of proof; reverse changes to the curfew provisions to allow for what is effectively home detention; and allow us to make the orders potentially indefinite. I am not convinced that the changes are necessary and nor are my colleagues in the Scottish Government. We are fortified in that view by the views of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, who is also unconvinced of the necessity of the changes. To be frank, I have heard nothing so far this afternoon to convince me that our reservations are wrong. Those reservations are really important because of the human rights implications, the lack of safeguards built into the Bill, and the lack of any review mechanism.

I am not going to go through what Jonathan Hall, QC said in his two very detailed notes, but he has tackled, in some detail, both the reduction of the standard of proof and making the orders potentially indefinite. He has been very clear that he is not convinced of the case for change, so my questions for the Minister are these. Can we hear more clearly why? Can we see an example of what justifies both the reduction in the burden of proof and the need for the orders to be without time limit? Can we hear why, in the face of such potentially draconian powers, there are no safeguards in the Bill? Would the Government be prepared to consider an oversight mechanism or a review mechanism?

Finally, on Prevent, it is important to remember that the delivery of the Prevent strategy in Scotland is devolved and that while national security is referred to the UK Government, the way the Scottish Government deliver the Prevent strategy in Scotland reflects Scottish differences and is unique to the challenge faced by Scottish communities. I think it is fair to say that the delivery of the Prevent strategy in Scotland has not encountered the same community resistance and community impacts as it has south of the border. Because of the problems encountered in England, the Scottish National party supported the call for a review of the Prevent strategy, but we also shared the very widespread concerns about the Government’s initial choice of reviewer. We believe now that it is very important that a new reviewer is found quickly, and that lessons about impartiality and the important appearance of impartiality are learned from the debacle over the previous putative appointments, so that the review can be seen as genuine and robust. We are a little concerned that the time limit for the review has been removed. I heard what the Lord Chancellor had to say about that, but it is very important that the removal of the time limit does not simply become an excuse to kick this into the long grass. That is the final point on which I seek reassurance from the Minister in his summing up.

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Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do recognise that these are always difficult judgments, and I say this in a cross-party spirit. These are always difficult judgments and difficult cases to deal with. It is because I have spoken consistently about the importance of having strong powers that I say to Ministers now that it is hugely important to have strong safeguards and strong checks and balances. That is where I think Ministers are getting some of the provisions wrong in the Bill. They will know, with my record of arguing for those powers, that I say with the greatest sincerity to the Secretary of State that he is getting the judgments wrong on the kinds of safeguards that might be needed, because the flipside of those strong powers is having the checks and balances to make sure that they cannot be abused or misused. That is why I asked him specifically what the evidence was for changing the burden of proof and for not having safeguards in place at the two-year point as well. The Bill does not include any safeguards requiring judicial scrutiny after two years. That was a weakness in the original control orders as well: those sorts of independent safeguards were not in place, where they could be continued.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The right hon. Lady raised the issue of safeguards, which I had intended to address in my wind-up. Section 6 of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 contains a provision whereby when the Home Secretary makes a TPIM order she has to go to the High Court to seek permission and the High Court must find that it is not “obviously flawed”. In addition, the subject has the ability to judicially review the decision, so there is that automatic safeguard in the form of High Court permission under section 6 of the 2011 Act.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There is when the TPIMs are first set out—the hon. Gentleman is right about that. My argument about the control orders at the beginning, where I thought they should have been amended back in 2011, was for introducing stronger safeguards. I have always believed that we need stronger safeguards in place, but the Bill does not include any safeguards for judicial scrutiny after two years if these measures are going to be extended—if they are going to be for longer. The independent reviewer, Jonathan Hall, has suggested a solution would be to require the Secretary of State to seek the court’s permission for any extension beyond two years, in the same way that she currently does when a TPIM is first made. That would seem to be a sensible additional safeguard to put in if those TPIMs are to be extended.

In addition, no explanation has been given about the burden of proof. I asked the Minister to tell me, hand on heart, whether he knew of cases—I do not ask for the detail—where he believes the wrong decision has been made not to put somebody on a TPIM because of the burden of proof, and he was not able to do so. I am therefore really concerned that there is not the evidence to justify lowering the burden of proof in this way. He referred to the idea that we somehow need greater “flexibility”. I hope he will reconsider his use of that word, because the powers are flexible; they can be used to apply to all sorts of different circumstances and different kinds of threats that an individual might pose. He should not use the word “flexibility” to apply to the burden of proof. We do not apply flexibility to proof, just as we do not apply it to truth.

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Robert Buckland Portrait Robert Buckland
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I did not mean it in those terms. Clearly where we have a regime specified by statute, it needs to be applied rigorously. I was talking about operational flexibility, bearing in mind the complexities of these orders, and the fact that they are not obtained lightly and there has to be a very good operational case for them. That is what I meant, and I am sorry if there was any ambiguity in my remarks.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I appreciate that, but I think that also makes clear the gap in the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s case, because operational flexibility still should not apply to the burden of proof—the evidence required in order to justify applying measures that are for particularly extreme circumstances. The independent reviewer, Jonathan Hall, has said that

“administrative convenience does not appear to provide a basis for reversing the safeguard of a higher standard of proof.”

We cannot justify saying that in order to somehow reduce the paperwork, we want to reduce the burden of proof to use such measures. His predecessor, Lord David Anderson, who argued for bringing back relocation and who has been a supporter of strong powers, has agreed with him on this matter. Initially he argued for increasing the burden of proof, and he has said that the Home Secretary should at least have to “believe” someone is a terrorist, not just “suspect” it. That is the important criterion if these powers are to be used. I urge the Government to rethink these safeguards. If we are to have these strong powers to keep us all safe, prevent terrorist attacks, and protect us from people who may be immensely dangerous, we should also ensure the right kinds of safeguards to make sure that those powers are not misused, abused, or used in the wrong cases.

On the Government’s Prevent programme and the review of it, I am disappointed that there is now no date in the Bill—it has been removed altogether. It is clear that we still have no reviewer in place for the Prevent programme, so they will obviously not complete the review by August, but that in itself is a huge disappointment. The timetable has been extended again, as has the application process. There is no deadline at all, and it is immensely important that the review is not just chucked into the long grass. Will the Minister include an alternative date? A date was included for a good reason, after debates about previous legislation, to ensure that the review happened. A programme that is so important and has had different questions about it raised, should be effectively reviewed to see how it should work.

Finally, we should also be looking at deradicalisation more widely, both as part of the Prevent programme and in our prisons, as well as at how we can do more to prevent extremism and radicalisation, and at how to turn people back towards a better course once things have gone wrong.

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Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Chris Philp)
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It is a pleasure to speak on Second Reading of this Bill. As Members have said, at the heart of the Bill is a desire to protect the public, which is our first duty as Members of Parliament and as a Government. There is no duty more important than protecting our fellow citizens.

It is right that, as we debate the Bill, we remember and pay tribute to the members of the emergency services who have put themselves in harm’s way defending the public, in particular, of course, PC Keith Palmer, who gave his life just a few yards from where we now stand. We remember and pay tribute to those people who have sadly and tragically lost their lives to terrorism of many different kinds over the past few years. As I look across the Chamber, I see the shield of Jo Cox, one of our own Members who was brutally, savagely and disgustingly murdered a few years ago.

In the spirit of the duty of public protection that binds us all together, the spirit in which the debate has been conducted is heartening. Of course, as the hon. Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn) said, I am sure that there will be points that we will debate forensically in Committee in the coming weeks, but the broad principles that we are debating command cross-party support and are an example of the House at its best. For people who think that British politics is broken, the debate this afternoon proves them categorically wrong.

The speech given by the shadow Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), was statesmanlike in its quality and I greatly enjoyed listening to and learning from it. The speeches from the Chairs of the Home Affairs Committee and the Justice Committee, and from long-standing and experienced Members such as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes), gave us all great pause for thought, as did the speech from the SNP Front-Bench spokesperson, the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry).

Like the hon. Member for St Helens North, I was struck by the enthusiasm, force and thoughtfulness of Members of the 2019 intake, all of whom made tremendous contributions and, more importantly, will continue to do so in the years ahead. The House is richer for their presence.

Of course, I welcome the hon. Member for St Helens North to his place. I am delighted to see him on the Front Bench. We worked together on Helen’s law which, without his work, would not be on the statute book. I know that Marie McCourt and many victims are grateful to him for that work, which will now continue from his deserved and rightful place at the Dispatch Box.

I will turn to some of the specific points that have arisen in this afternoon’s debate, starting with TPIMs, which were the most extensively debated of the measures. I thank the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) for the consistency with which she has advocated on that point. I note that the consistency from 2005 does not quite extend to the burden of proof, but it seems to extend to most other elements.

Let me start with the burden of proof. Many hon. Members have asked why we are returning to the burden of proof of “reasonable grounds for suspecting” that was contained in the Labour Government’s original 2005 legislation. It is a delicate question, as Members have said. As we consider the burden of proof that is appropriate, we have to balance and weigh the rights of the subject, whose liberty is being curtailed to some extent, with our duties to protect the public. We have spoken this afternoon about the victims of these terrible terrorist offences. We in public office—Members of Parliament and those in government—have a duty to think very carefully about our duties to protect people who might become victims of these terrible offences.

In answer to the question about why we are proposing this burden of proof, it is because it gives the Government the maximum reasonable ability to introduce TPIMs where they are necessary to protect the public. Setting the burden where we have suggested—a reasonable suspicion, rather than a reasonable belief or on the balance of probabilities—gives the Home Secretary the ability to act more widely than would otherwise be the case when public safety is at stake.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can the Minister tell us how many cases in the last two years have not met the current threshold but would meet his lower threshold?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Lord Chancellor said, we will not comment on individual cases. As the right hon. Lady knows, the number of TPIMs in force is very low—it is only five currently. We are not just talking about what may have happened historically; we are looking prospectively at what measures we may need to take to protect our fellow citizens.

Members have asked what the safeguards are. The first safeguard is that the Home Secretary—who I see is now in the Chamber, and who is a doughty defender of public safety and public protection—does not act without fetter, because when a TPIM order is made by the Home Secretary, it is reviewed by the High Court under section 6 of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011. The High Court has to give permission before that TPIM can come into force, and if the High Court finds that it is “obviously flawed”, permission is not granted, so there is a judicial safeguard inherent in the structure of TPIMs. If the subject of the TPIM feels that they have been unfairly treated, they may go to the Court for a judicial review. There are significant safeguards inherent in the structure of TPIMs.

As I said a moment ago, the Government use these measures extremely sparingly. Our preference, of course, is prosecution, as it should be. We only use TPIMs where absolutely necessary to protect the public, and we make no apology for doing so. Only five are in force at the moment, which is evidence of how carefully the Government apply these measures. Since 2011, despite the judicial mechanisms I have described, not a single TPIM has been overturned. I hope that that gives Members confidence that there are safeguards and that these measures are being used in a thoughtful way.

Reference has been made to the opinion of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. Of course, we listen carefully to what Jonathan Hall QC has to say. We study his advice carefully, and we often follow his advice. It is for this House and for us as Members of Parliament to reach our own decision, which may in many cases accord with the independent reviewer, but in some cases it may not. Where our judgment differs, we should exercise our independent judgment, as we are doing in this case.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Lewis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the Minister’s references to TPIMs, he may have answered a question that I was hoping to ask him a little later: what do we do about that category of people who have gone abroad to fight for terrorist-backing organisations and return to this country, where there is not enough evidence to prosecute? I think that the Bill does not say a lot about that. If I am wrong, will he correct me? If I am right, surely that is an area where TPIMs might be relevant.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Indeed. In relation to people who go overseas to assist terrorist organisations, we deprive them of their citizenship where we can, if it is lawful— if they are, for example, dual nationals—to prevent their return here in the first place. It is right that we do that. Secondly, on their return, it is our strong preference, if there is sufficient evidence, to prosecute them under the criminal law, as we very often do. However, if there are evidential difficulties and we cannot meet the burden of proof required by a criminal court—beyond reasonable doubt—but we do have a reasonable suspicion, we can use TPIMs to protect the public, should the Bill be passed in this form. The excellent example from my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) illustrates exactly why TPIMs could help us in those cases where we cannot achieve prosecution. Evidence from Syria, for example, is very hard to gather, but in cases where we have a reasonable suspicion, we must act to protect the public.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let me stress this point again: the Minister has still not given us any reason why the current system is no good and why it does not work. He has mentioned independent judgment, but he is giving us no evidence on which to make our independent judgment that is different from the reviewer.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are returning to a situation that was enshrined originally in 2005, which Members opposite strongly supported at the time. I have made the case already that the Bill gives the Home Secretary an ability to take a rounder judgment with the proof threshold set at reasonable suspicion, rather than reasonable belief or the balance of probabilities. I have made the case that we need to be mindful of protecting potential victims. We need to think about this not just retrospectively, as a historical review of case studies, but prospectively and how we may need the power in the future. I have explained the safeguards in place and I have proved that the Government use the powers sparingly. I think I have made the case for the legislation as currently drafted.

Let me turn now to the question of de-radicalisation and reducing reoffending, which the shadow Lord Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Tottenham, referred to very powerfully in his speech. Let me be clear that we are not giving up hope on any people who are convicted as terrorist offenders—especially young people, but frankly, we are not giving up hope on anyone. Although these cases are hard and rehabilitation is very difficult, we will never give up hope. There are cases such as that of Maajid Nawaz, the founder of the Quilliam Foundation, who harboured extremist ideologies, but is now fully reformed and is a powerful and moving advocate for tolerance and moderation. I look to examples like that for hope—and they give me hope.

It is in that spirit that the Government have been investing in this area. It is fair to say that there is more we need to do to meet our aspirations, but in January we announced an additional £90 million for counter-terrorism policing. We have doubled the number of counter-terrorism probation staff serving and we have introduced new national standards for monitoring terrorist offenders on licence, which includes work with psychologists to try to address any mental health issues that may relate to this sort of offending. We are also involving imams to try to explain in the case of Islamist offending that Islam is a peaceful religion and that the interpretation that some offenders have is a perversion of the true meaning of that great and peaceful religion. We are involving them in our work.

Things such as the theological and ideological interventions programme, the healthy identities programme and the desistance and disengagement programme are all designed to do the same thing. I do not pretend that those systems are working as fully effectively as we would like. I acknowledge there is more work to do, but that work is happening and being invested in. As I said a moment ago, I have hope that people can be turned on to a different path, and that ultimately must be our objective.

I turn now to the question of the removal of the Parole Board’s function in relation to people who will now serve their full custodial term in prison—those most serious offenders. It is right that we do that for the reasons that have been laid out. The most dangerous offenders should serve their full prison sentence, and the public expects that. We have acknowledged that rehabilitation needs to be taking place subsequently in the extended licence period provided after their release.

Although there will be no Parole Board intervention, as the shadow Secretary of State pointed out in his speech at the beginning, plenty of other intervention will take place. For example, very extensive mapper work will take place throughout the custodial sentence. The Prison Service and prison governors, including excellent governors, such as the governor at Belmarsh, will do enormous amounts of work with prisoners during their custodial sentence. The probation service, in the way that I described a moment ago, will work with the offender in their extended licence period afterwards.

Although the Parole Board will not make the release decision—that is effectively made by the judge at the point of sentence in handing down a sentence of this nature —a huge amount of work will none the less be done to manage, help, monitor and, where appropriate, intervene during the prison sentence and during the licence period subsequently. I am therefore satisfied, as is the Lord Chancellor, that these arrangements are comprehensive and will be effective.

Let me say a word about polygraphs, which the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West and the hon. Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) referred to. It is important to stress that the use of polygraphs that we are proposing here is the same as the use currently deployed in relation to sex offenders on licence. These polygraph results, because they are not entirely accurate—they are quite accurate, but not entirely accurate—do not create any binding consequence. If somebody fails one of these polygraph tests on licence, further investigatory work is done by the police or the probation service. It triggers further work, which will then produce a conclusion one way or the other. It does not produce a binding result, but it serves as a trigger.

If we look at the way polygraphs have been used in relation to sex offences, we find that the level of disclosure of relevant information by those sex offenders to whom polygraph tests are applied has increased, since the introduction of the tests, from a 51% disclosure rate to 76%, so they have been helpful. They are not a panacea—they do not tell us everything and we cannot wholly rely on them—but they do yield some information, as a result of which further investigation can be conducted.

Some questions were asked about the Prevent review. We are very close to appointing a new chairman of that review, which is overdue, as Members rightly said. Members asked, again quite rightly and fairly, what our revised target date is for that review to report. Our target date is August 2021. That is a year later than originally anticipated, but Members will understand that the resignation of the initially appointed chairman and then the coronavirus outbreak have, unfortunately, caused that one-year delay. That is the timetable we are now working to.

Finally, the hon. Member for Belfast East and his colleague the hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry) made reference to the application to Northern Ireland of the ending of the automatic early release of terrorist offenders. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Belfast East welcomes that application. We thought very carefully about the legal implications, because the structure of sentences in Northern Ireland differs from that in the rest of the United Kingdom. That is why we did not act in February. We have now thought about it very carefully, we have taken extensive legal advice, and we are now wholly satisfied that it can properly be applied to Northern Ireland without any article 7 or, indeed, common law retrospectivity infringement. That is why we now include Northern Ireland in these provisions—and of course, because we want the United Kingdom to act as one in these terrorist-related matters, it is proper that we do so.

Terrorists seek to divide our country, they seek to divide our community and they seek to create hatred among us, but I think that in the conduct of our debate this afternoon we have demonstrated that, no matter what our differences may be in day-to-day political matters, we will stand together in solidarity and in unity, as a House of Commons and as leaders of our various communities, against all those from all different wings of the terrorist fraternity. We will unite against hate, and we will keep in mind Jo Cox’s words in her maiden speech, which I remember listening to five years ago from the Back Benches. She said that there is more that unites us than divides us. Let us keep those words in mind and let us fight terrorism of all kinds wherever we find it.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Programme)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill:

Committal

(1) The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.

Proceedings in Public Bill Committee

(2) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Tuesday 14 July 2020.

(3) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.

Proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading

(4) Proceedings on Consideration and any proceedings in legislative grand committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which proceedings on Consideration are commenced.

(5) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.

(6) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading.

Other proceedings

(7) Any other proceedings on the Bill may be programmed.—(Eddie Hughes.)

Question agreed to.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (First sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage & Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons
Thursday 25th June 2020

(4 years ago)

Public Bill Committees
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 25 June 2020 - (25 Jun 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Before we begin, I have a couple of housekeeping points to make. Please make sure that electronic devices are on silent. I am afraid that tea and coffee are not allowed; water is, along as it has not been near a tea bag or any coffee granules. Social distancing must be observed. Our Hansard reporters would be grateful if Members could email any electronic copies of their speaking notes to hansardnotes@parliament.uk. Please do remove jackets at any point under my chairmanship as we proceed through the Bill.

We will first consider the programme motion on the amendment paper. We will then consider a motion to allow us to deliberate in private briefly, before moving to the oral evidence session. I hope we can get through these first bits without too much debate. I call the Minister to move the programme motion that was agreed by the Programming Sub-Committee yesterday.

Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Philp)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move,

That—

(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 11.30 am on Thursday 25 June) meet;

(a) at 2.00 pm on Thursday 25 June;

(b) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 30 June;

(c) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 2 July;

(d) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 7 July;

(e) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 9 July;

(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following table:

TABLE

Day

Time

Witness

Thursday 25 June

Until no later than 12.30 pm

Jonathan Hall QC, Independent

Reviewer of Terrorism

Legislation

Thursday 25 June

Until no later than 13.00 pm

The National Police Chiefs’

Council

Thursday 25 June

Until no later than 14.30 pm

Prison Reform Trust

Thursday 25 June

Until no later than 15.00 pm

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

Thursday 25 June

Until no later than 15.30 pm

Law Society of Scotland

Thursday 25 June

Until no later than 16.00 pm

Professor Donald Grubin, Newcastle University

Tuesday 30 June

Until no later than 9.55 am

The Professional Trades Union

for Prison, Correctional and

Secure Psychiatric Workers

Tuesday 30 June

Until no later than 10.25 am

The Tony Blair Institute for

Global Change

Tuesday 30 June

Until no later than 10.55 am

Professor Andrew Silke,

Cranfield University



(3) proceedings on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clause 1; Schedule 1; Clause 2; Schedule 2; Clause 3; Schedule 3; Clauses 4 to 6; Schedule 4; Clauses 7 to 19; Schedule 5; Clauses 20 and 21; Schedule 6; Clauses 22 and 23; Schedule 7; Clauses 24 and 25; Schedule 8; Clauses 26 and 27; Schedule 9; Clause 28; Schedule 10; Clauses 29 to 36; Schedule 11; Clauses 37 to 45; Schedule 12; Clauses 46 to 48; Schedule 13; Clauses 49 to 53; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;

(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.00 pm on Tuesday 14 July.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I have one point of clarification to make. Yesterday, in the Programming Sub-Committee, we discussed whether we should invite the Prison Officers Association or the Prison Governors Association. On further investigation, it transpires that the Professional Trades Union for Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers is in fact the Prison Officers Association—that is its full name. We will therefore see the Prison Officers Association on Tuesday at 9.25 am. We had contacted the Prison Governors Association, but I am told that, rather surprisingly, it did not reply. That should satisfy the request that the shadow Minister made yesterday.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That, at this and any subsequent meeting at which oral evidence is to be heard, the Committee shall sit in private until the witnesses are admitted.—(Chris Philp.)

Resolved,

That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(Chris Philp.)

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Copies of written evidence that the Committee receives will be made available in the Committee Room.

--- Later in debate ---
Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q May I first take the opportunity to thank you for your service as Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Mr Hall? The whole House is very grateful for the work that you do in this area, and I want to put on the record our thanks to you for doing that.

I am sure we have all read the notes that you very helpfully prepared on this legislation and published on your website at the end of May and the beginning of June. I have them in front of me and have read them with great interest. To start, I want to ask about TPIMs—terrorism prevention and investigation measures—which were the subject of some debate on Second Reading. I want first to ask about the current circumstances in which a TPIM expires and has to be reapplied for from scratch without it being possible to use the previous evidence from two or more years before. Do you think there are circumstances in which public safety may still demand a TPIM beyond the two-year period? Are these proposals a better way of handling it than the current method?

Jonathan Hall: The answer is yes, there are be circumstances in which someone ought to be subject to controls for longer than two years. Yes, there will be circumstances in which it will be appropriate to rely on terrorism-related activity that predates the imposition of the first TPIM. I understand the business case, if you like, for allowing an extension beyond the two-year period. However, the reason I question in the first instance whether it is justified is that it is none the less possible, as the law currently stands, to extend beyond two years. There are two current examples—I will not go into the details—of where a second and fresh TPIM has been imposed.

The practical consequence of the current regime is that some will come off controls, and if they have literally lain doggo and have done nothing for that two-year period, the police and MI5 will have to start assembling a new case, assuming that the person re-engages with terrorism-related activity. There could be a gap period during which that terrorism-related activity is going on, during which the case is being built when they are re-imposed.

If TPIMs were currently imposed against attack planners, I would have fewer observations to make about the ability to extend further. However, in practice, as I said in my note, having spoken to officials, TPIMs are really currently used against radicalisers. It is certainly the case that public safety is not helped by radicalisation activities, but as things currently stand, people subject to TPIMs are not the attack planners, who, if they are free from restrictions, might go and do something very violent. More likely, they will re-engage in radicalising activities. As shown by the fact that two new TPIMs have been imposed, it is currently possible to manage that risk.

I understand the business case, more than I do for the lowering of the standard of proof, which we can come to separately. At the moment, I do not understand why it is needed as TPIMs are currently used.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q You mentioned that, in the two cases where there have been renewals, there was a hiatus—a gap—between the expiry of the first TPIM and the second coming into force. Could you give the Committee any information about how long that gap was?

Jonathan Hall: Yes, I have worked it out. In one case it was a gap of a year, and in the second it was a gap of 16 months.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q In those hiatuses—those gaps—of between a year and almost a year and a half, there is clearly a risk to which the public is being exposed. The rationale for the proposed changes is to remove the possibility of that gap.

Jonathan Hall: What I would say is that the risk was managed, as the law currently stands. There was a gap, but in fact, it is not as if something very bad happened from those sources in that period, as far as I can work out, having read the materials that I have read.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q But it is about risk; not all risks actualise. A risk may exist, but no consequence may follow. What we are trying to prevent with TPIMs is the risk itself. It is fair to say that the risk would have existed in that 12 to 16-month period.

Jonathan Hall: Yes.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q You mentioned the burden of proof earlier, which I am sure other Members will ask about in due course. With the TPIM regime as it stands, very few TPIMs are actually enforced. Published data, dating back to November last year, said that five were in force at that time. Have you seen any evidence of the Government overreaching, stretching or even misusing the TPIM powers, or would you say that the Government have exercised the powers that already exist with care and circumspection?

Jonathan Hall: The latter. I am quite satisfied that the Government are doing that.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q So in the context of the Government having behaved responsibly and carefully so far, what basis do you have for being concerned about the change to the burden of proof, given that the powers that have existed for some years now have been used, as you have said, very carefully?

Jonathan Hall: You asked me about the current TPIMs. I cannot speak for all the uses of control orders and TPIMs that have happened before my period. There is a risk that mistakes can be made about assessing intelligence. I have reason to believe that. My concern is that you are opening up a greater margin of error if the standard of proof is lowered. It is a fairness issue based on the authorities having all the cards.

The point that you make, which is that the authorities can be generally trusted to make TPIMs against the right people, to my mind rather demonstrates that a change is unnecessary. The authorities have been able to impose TPIMs, as far as I can see, where they have wanted to. I am not aware of cases where the authorities would like to have imposed a TPIM if the standard of proof had been lower—where they could say, “We think this person’s a terrorist, but they may not be and we’d like to impose a TPIM, but we can’t, because we cannot show on the balance of probabilities.” I am not aware of that sort of case. So I agree that the authorities can be trusted and, at the moment, I think things are working okay.

The regime of control orders and TPIMs has fluctuated over the years since it was introduced. It has been subject to a lot of scrutiny and consideration by my predecessors and by the courts. It has landed in a reasonably good place. The danger about changing unnecessarily is that, maybe not now, but in a few years’ time, you might provoke an overreaction.

I will give an example of that. When the control order regime came in, it was seen as a bit illiberal and that led to the removal of the power to relocate individuals when the TPIM regime was introduced. Eventually, my predecessor David Anderson, the Government and Parliament agreed that it was necessary to bring back that power of relocation. So if you like, there was a period when the public were less safe because the ability to relocate had been removed, and the reason why that ability to relocate had been removed is that it was the reaction to what had been seen as a slightly illiberal measure. If it is right that the current standard of proof is usable and fair, and I think it is, in a word, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I want to pick up on a couple of those points. We should both try to be brief, because other Committee members want to ask questions. You mentioned that the state holds all the cards, but is it not the case that a judge looks at a TPIM prior to it coming into force and if it is—I forget the phrase—“manifestly unreasonable”, or some test like that, they will strike it down? Secondly, there is, of course, a right of appeal against TPIMs, so anyone made the subject of a TPIM has those two judicial protections in place, do they not?

Jonathan Hall: Yes, but of course if the standard of proof is lowered, the extent of judicial protection is lowered, because the judge will not be asking him or herself, “Was the Secretary of State right to be satisfied on the balance of probability that this person is a terrorist?” The judge would have to say, “Well, in theory, they may not be a terrorist, but the Home Secretary’s view that they may be a terrorist is reasonable,” so you would remove the judicial protection.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q It would not remove it; it would alter the balance.

Jonathan Hall: Yes.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It certainly would not remove it.

Jonathan Hall: No.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q You mentioned the original control orders set up in 2005 by the then Labour Government, which had reasonable suspicion as the burden of proof: precisely the same burden of proof being proposed today. The years following, probably between 2005 and 2012, were the years during which the lower burden of proof—the one we are now proposing—was enforced. I know you were not the reviewer at the time, but are you aware of any evidence of misuse in that seven-year period when the lower burden of proof prevailed?

Jonathan Hall: I am not aware of any misuse, but I am aware of circumstances in which the intelligence was misunderstood.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Finally, a moment ago you posed the question, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”, and you said you were not aware of any cases where a lower burden of proof would have been required to control someone. Of course, we are looking prospectively rather than retrospectively. If there are conceivable circumstances in future whereby someone is potentially a threat to the British public—our constituents, who would need protection from them—and we cannot establish the matter to the higher standard but could for the lower, it clearly would be useful to change the burden of proof.

On Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) raised the question of someone who had been a member of Daesh returning from Syria. Of course, if somebody has been circulating in Syria, it is very hard to establish their activities on the balance of probabilities. It is hard to get witness testimony and there will be no intelligence surveillance, but the fact remains that they have been to Syria and done whatever they have done over there. In those circumstances, is it conceivable that, when British citizens who are members of Daesh return from somewhere like Syria, the lower burden of proof might be helpful, or in fact necessary?

Jonathan Hall: I have thought a little about this. It is certainly the case that evidential coverage of what goes on in Daesh-controlled areas will be limited, which is why prosecution is particularly difficult. Intelligence coverage might be more, but it might be patchy. I think that if someone has been in Syria for a long time, it is a pretty obvious inference that they have been up to no good, so I do not think that you would need the lower standard of proof. You would not say, “I reasonably suspect that because you spent five years in Syria, you were engaged in terrorism-related activity.” My own view is that a judge would say, “On the balance of probabilities, you were engaged in terrorism-related activity.” Of course, there will always be some coverage. I do not think that what you said is right, although I see where you are coming from.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q It is clearly much harder to establish that, on the balance of probabilities, somebody was up to no good in Syria, given that the evidential base is patchy at best and possibly even non-existent.

Jonathan Hall: Yes, but I think that, with respect, what you are missing out is the big factual matter, which would be undisputed, that they were in Syria. The Secretary of State’s starting point would be, “Here is a matter of fact, undisputed, that somebody spent all those years in Syria.” I think that that would provide a fairly good jumping-off point for an inference that they were engaged in terrorism-related activity.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q They would no doubt argue that they might have been in Syria and might have been members of or living in Daesh territory, but that they were not engaged in terrorist activities expressly, and we would likely have no further evidence to establish that they were.

Jonathan Hall: I think that judges, when they come to consider these matters, are prepared to draw robust inferences. They are not fools. No doubt the Secretary of State would also not be fooled by someone who simply claimed that they were there for humanitarian reasons.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I have one further question, which is on a different part of the Bill: the new serious terrorism sentences and the requirement to serve all of those in prison without the prospect of early release by the Parole Board. You commented in one of your notes that the Parole Board would therefore not have involvement in release decisions in the way that they currently do in many cases. Are you reassured by the fact that, although the Parole Board would not take release decisions, the usual MAPPA—multi-agency public protection arrangements —arrangements would be engaged, the Prison Service would closely monitor and evaluate the prisoner prior to release, and of course the probation service would be closely involved both before and after release during the licence period, which is now going to be longer than would otherwise have been the case? Would you accept that the involvement of those agencies, particularly the MAPPA arrangements and the probation service, provide a good level of supervision and evaluation?

Jonathan Hall: The difficulty with terrorism risk is that it is quite difficult to measure. You have actuarial tools to look at whether people who have committed burglary will reoffend, and they are reasonably robust. You do not have those sorts of tools for terrorism. As I probably said in my notes, some of the factors that you normally associate with reoffending—for example, not having a stable family background—do not tend to work so well with terrorism offenders. You find terrorism offenders who come from a stable background and have a job, so it is inherently difficult to identify the probability that someone will reoffend.

The approach that I took when I did my MAPPA review was that the more information, the better. I agree that the probation service, the police and MI5 will be carrying out assessments, but you lose the confrontation that takes place at a Parole Board hearing. As you have probably done, I have attended such a hearing, where there is an opportunity for the chairman to speak to the offender in quite a formal setting. It brings something different to the table, which you would obviously lose. You would definitely have covert intelligence sources, and you would have overt management in the sense of the police being able to speak to the offender, but you would lose the opportunity for a confrontation before they have been released. You are losing something—that is probably how I would put it.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q You said that it is inherently difficult to assess dangerousness and threat. Given that, is it not safest to get them to serve the whole of their sentence in prison, to be on the safe side? All the Parole Board can do is release them early, and all we are doing is removing the Parole Board’s ability to do that. One loses nothing in terms of public safety. Given the difficulties with assessing threat that you have outlined, is it not safe and prudent as custodians of public safety, which we all are in different ways, to remove the prospect of early release?

Jonathan Hall: The Parole Board has two choices: it could release early, but it could, and often will, decide not to release early and say, “Actually, you’re far too dangerous.” That additional source of information about their risk will then be very useful to the security services when they are eventually released.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I think that we had better move on. Alex Cunningham.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

We will now hear from the National Police Chiefs’ Council. Should hon. Members wish to ask a question, it would be helpful if they could catch my eye early in the proceedings, so that I can try to restrict Front Benchers as necessary.

Thank you very much for joining us, Mr Jacques. Could you please briefly introduce yourself and your organisation?

Tim Jacques: I am Tim Jacques. I am an assistant chief constable and I work with counter-terrorism policing here in the UK. I am the deputy senior national co-ordinator.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I will try to self-censor, Mr Robertson, for brevity. I will start by asking a general question. Assistant Chief Constable, you are responsible for counter-terrorism policing. Taken in the round and viewed as a whole, will the measures in the Bill make your job easier or harder? Will they make the public less or more safe?

Tim Jacques: It will make our job easier, and yes, I believe it will make the public safer.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Good. Thank you. We have heard TPIMs and the burden of proof extensively debated, and we have questions about why the burden of proof should be lower—reasonable suspicion rather than a higher level. Do you think that in future there might be cases where somebody threatens the safety of the public, and you are unable to meet the higher burden of proof on the balance of probabilities, but you could meet the lower burden of proof—reasonable suspicion—and that without this change that is proposed in the Bill, the public would be exposed to greater risk?

Tim Jacques: That is a very long question. On the first point, policing itself is not the applicant for TPIMs; the Security Service is. Am I able to share its view in this forum?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Please do.

Tim Jacques: First—Jonathan touched on this—there have not been occasions thus far when the current burden of proof has prevented the application of a TPIM. In terms of the numbers, there are six now in place in the UK. Neither we nor the Security Service envisage a large increase in those numbers as a result of the provisions in the Bill. The Security Service points to three instances where it thinks this would have utility from an operational perspective. The first is where an individual’s risk profile is rapidly increasing—hypothetically, somebody who we know might be operating online, but our belief is that they are moving towards posing an actual threat on the street with an attack plan in place. If that is very rapid, which it can now be—we have seen instances of that—then being able to use a lower standard of proof is something that MI5 thinks would be of use.

Secondly—Jonathan touched on this too—there is the issue of somebody returning from abroad, who we believe has been involved in terrorist-related activity overseas, and the issues of evidence in that. The Home Secretary can currently impose temporary exclusion orders at the lower standard of proof. If somebody wants to come back and has a right to come back to the UK, they can be imposed on the lower standard of proof. If someone somehow makes it to the UK under the radar or without our knowledge, the higher burden of proof would have to be applied to impose a TPIM. That is the second case that MI5 would point to.

The third issue, which Jonathan also touched on, relates to sensitive material. TPIMs are challengeable and there is an automatic review and so on. The disclosure of sensitive material would potentially compromise sensitive techniques and therefore make our job and that of the Security Service harder, but the lower standard would assist them in their national security role.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q For those three reasons, you are being categorically clear with this Committee and with Parliament that the proposed lower standard of proof would be a benefit to the police and the security services, and that it would make the public safer.

Tim Jacques: That is the view of the security services. We are not the applicant, but that is their clear view.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you for making that extremely clear. I am sure that the Committee will pay close attention to the advice being given to us through you by the security services. I have one more question on TPIMs, relating to the current two-year expiry date and the proposal to make them annually renewable. They will not be indefinite unless the threat is indefinite. Do the security services for whom you speak see a threat to the public as a consequence of the gaps that we have heard Mr Hall describe: the 12-month gap in one case and the 16-month gap in the other?

Tim Jacques: Because we jointly manage TPIMs once imposed, I can speak on this. Yes, we do see an increase in the threat if that gap occurs, and that gap has occurred, as Jonathan has pointed out previously.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q There is a very helpful question on our briefing paper about the danger that measures perceived as oppressive and disproportionate may alienate individuals who could otherwise be rehabilitated. Do you have a view on that, particularly in relation to younger people, who might be a little immature?

Tim Jacques: I certainly have a view on that. From a policing perspective—I do not think it is any different for our operational partners—there are two trains in place here: one is punishment and incarceration, which was mentioned earlier; and the other is rehabilitation, desistance and disengagement. Ultimately, the best outcome is the latter: we change the individual’s mindset and view of the world, and mitigate the risk that they pose to the public in an enduring manner. Anything that promotes that prevent, disengagement and deradicalization position is to be welcomed.

Both those options are considered with TPIMs, and indeed with most of the work that we undertake. Both protect the public, if successful. We are conscious of that and drive both of them. Counter-terrorism policing operates across all the Ps of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy, called Contest, and prevent and pursue are included in that.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Second sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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Committee stage & Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
Thursday 25th June 2020

(4 years ago)

Public Bill Committees
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 25 June 2020 - (25 Jun 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Good afternoon. The Minister will put the first question to you.

Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Philp)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q 71 It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, as always, Mr McCabe. Mr Dawson, thank you very much for making yourself available to answer questions. I am sure the whole Committee is extremely grateful. I will keep my questions brief to allow other Committee members to come in. Would you agree that when it comes to very serious terrorist offending, the principal concern of Parliament and the entire criminal justice system should be that of public protection?

Peter Dawson: Thank you very much for the opportunity to give evidence. The answer, of course, is yes, and I will try to explain why I can say yes with such conviction. Three of my colleagues and a number of close personal friends were present at Fishmongers’ Hall. Had I left my office five minutes earlier that afternoon, I would have been present myself. I have seen the devastation that that crime unleashed on some very close friends, so, absolutely, personal protection is the first priority. Our concern with the Bill, which I am sure we will get the chance to explore, is that aspects of it may not be justified by public protection, and indeed some aspects may undermine it.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q On public protection, which we have agreed is the overriding priority, given how hard it is to rehabilitate some offenders, and that some who are apparently engaging in constructive rehabilitative work may not be, which indeed was the case of the offender at Fishmongers’ Hall—my condolences to your colleagues who were caught up in that—do you agree that keeping the most serious offenders off the street for the duration of their sentence is the only way to be certain that the public are protected?

Peter Dawson: It is the only way to be certain for that length of time, but it is not always certain when that length of time comes to an end. This is the dilemma that faces the criminal justice system in every case. Of course, it is brought to the public’s attention by events of this sort, and such events excite particularly strong emotions. Terrorism is a very difficult thing to understand, but a lot of criminal motivations are difficult to understand and to predict, so we have systems that seek to balance the difficulty of that prediction with the rights of the person who has been accused and their right to a future life when they have served their punishment.

The problem with denying all hope of release on a conditional basis by a judgment about whether the person can be released safely or not is that it denies hope and affects the whole of the prison sentence. You will be aware that I spent a good part of my career as a prison governor, and the way in which people can be encouraged and assisted to engage in work that may change their behaviour in the future is if there is something in it for them. The parole process is not just about the judgment at the end of the custodial period; it is about the whole of the sentence from the very first day and doing work that may make a difference and may make the public safer when that person eventually leaves prison. It is a dilemma, but I do not think that the public are best served by saying that we will postpone the moment at which risk arrives without taking the opportunity to reduce that risk. The possibility of parole is essential to the process that reduces risk.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q We are talking about offenders serving determinate sentences, but they do have hope in the sense that the sentence has a fixed length—they are going to be released at the end of their sentence. I was asking about the release point which, under the current system, may come before the end of the sentence or, under these proposals for the most serious of offenders, at the very end of the sentence. We are talking about determinate sentences, so release will come.

You mentioned trying to make people safer upon release. What sort of activity is most effective during the prison sentence, whether release comes early or not? What are the most effective interventions that lower risk when they prisoners are released, whenever that release occurs?

Peter Dawson: The most important thing about understanding rehabilitation is that it happens in a community. You must always have one eye on what life is going to be like when that person comes out and what it is about life after release to cause them not to commit crime. That is true for terrorist crimes as well as for all other sorts of crime. There is nothing secret about this: people need somewhere to live, a way to earn their living, and a reason to live in a law-abiding way. Very often, that reason comes from family and from exactly the same things that cause all the rest of us to live the way we do. That means having people who care about you and have an interest in your future, and having a feeling yourself that you have a stake in a future that is law abiding.

You cannot coerce people into rehabilitation. There has been lots of discussion about particular programmes and courses that may assist in that, and across the picture of offending behaviour there are some programmes that have some effect, but we clearly need to be realistic about the impact of those programmes, whether in relation to terrorism or anything else.

First, a successful programme must be built on a research base and a theory of change that makes sense, and that research base is relatively small. Secondly, the programme then has to be delivered according to its manual. The third thing is that the environment in which it is delivered and in which the person lives has to support the aims of the course, and programmes should be audited. That third aspect is really important in this. The aims of the course are to give a person a stake in their society to encourage lawful behaviour, so the authority must be legitimate. The people must go into an environment that treats them fairly and which they feel is fair.

The difficulty with providing no incentive or reward for engagement in that change is that that appears to be unfair. If you add to the difficulties, which are real and difficult for the Prison Service to deal with, a bias against people who have committed offences like this, the danger is that someone can go through a programme and appear to have made progress and then go back into a sentence lasting many years, during which they do not feel treated fairly. None of these programmes cure; some of them have some impact on some people.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Order. I have to interrupt there, Mr Dawson, because I am conscious of the time.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Order. I am sorry to interrupt you, but we really have to press on at this stage. Minister.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you, Mr McCabe. Mr Allamby and Dr Russell, thank you for taking the time to join us and give evidence this afternoon.

You will be aware that when Parliament passed the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020 in February, Northern Ireland was excluded because we were concerned about issues of retrospection, owing to the differences in sentencing structure in Northern Ireland compared with the rest of the United Kingdom. Having taken very detailed and extensive further legal advice, the Government now take the view that the measures in the TORER Act can safely be applied to Northern Ireland without engaging in issues of retrospectivity, and the Bill seeks to do that. Is that a conclusion with which you concur?

Les Allamby: Clearly, I have not seen your detailed legal advice, so I do not know, and I would have to reflect on whatever legal advice you received; we have not taken legal advice on the issue ourselves.

The one thing I would say is that, as you know, there will need to be a legislative consent motion on a number of the sentencing provisions and, off the top of my head, I suspect that this provision might be one of them. I know from discussions with the relevant Minister in Northern Ireland, who is publicly opposed to terror etc., that there are some very real practical concerns about extending this Act to Northern Ireland and some potentially unintended consequences.

So I think my answer to the question is this: listen very closely to your counterparts in the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland, and to the Justice Minister in Northern Ireland, as to whether this change is advantageous to the circumstances of Northern Ireland. Frankly, I cannot speak for either the Minister or officials, but I would take very careful cognisance of what they have to say to your own civil service colleagues.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you, Mr Allamby. Let me assure you that we are in extremely close and ongoing dialogue with Naomi Long and others in the Northern Ireland Executive, so those conversations are happening on a very regular basis.

My final question relates to polygraphs. You mentioned the importance of evidence, and later this afternoon we are seeing a professor who is an expert in this area, as far as evidence is concerned. Would you agree that where polygraphs are used just to provide a bit more background information and perhaps prompt further investigation, rather than being used to have a biting and binding consequence, there can be some value in that, as part of a holistic assessment to work out where more work needs to be done? Nobody is suggesting that it would lead to a direct, binding consequence. Does that give you any assurance?

Les Allamby: It gives me, I have to say, a rather limited measure of reassurance. I say that because it seems to me that if that is the case, then frankly that ought to be written into the Bill. It ought to be clear that the outcome of a polygraph test on its own should not have any adverse impact.

If you are going to introduce polygraph tests, you really should pilot them. I will quickly give you an example. It may seem a slightly odd analogy, but I used to sit on the Social Security Advisory Committee, and I remember being told many years ago by the Department for Work and Pensions that it was looking at voice recognition, as a way of starting to tell whether somebody might be telling the truth or not. Great play was made about that approach as a possible way forward in fraud detection, etc. It unravelled as the evidence became clearer that there were significant flaws in using that technology for making assumptions about whether individuals were telling the truth.

I cannot draw any objective scientific comparison between voice recognition and polygraphs, but it is a cautionary tale of rushing into using technology without piloting it and really considering what other safeguards you should have before using it.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Good afternoon, chief commissioner and Dr Russell. You have said that you will put in a written submission on some of the wider issues around TPIMs. Please summarise your concerns about the new TPIM proposals from a human rights perspective.

Les Allamby: Yes, certainly. One concern is the relative absence of safeguards around extending it beyond two years. I think there ought to be additional judicial safeguards. There ought to be a test, if you are going to extend beyond two years, as to whether there is a compelling basis for doing so.

I have concerns that the loosening of the test from the balance of probabilities to reasonable suspicion. I note that we have slalomed, going back to control orders, as to what the required burden of proof is. I note the issues David Anderson raised. I also noted that the European convention on human rights memorandum issued by the Department suggested that things had changed between 2015 and 2020, but I am unsure whether that change is sufficiently compelling to reduce the test from balance of probabilities to reasonable suspicion.

TPIMs are used in a very small number of cases. They are oppressive. None the less, they are utilised on a sparing basis. But you need additional safeguards, if you will extend them beyond two years. Two years is a significant period of time in someone’s life to restrict their freedom of movement and their liberty, to the extent that TPIMs currently do, bearing in mind some of the additional provisions that will now be contained in TPIMs.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Minister, do you have a supplementary question you want to put to that?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I believe that, in the circumstance where somebody on licence fails the polygraph test, the intention is not that that would lead to revocation of licence, but that it would prompt further investigation—that is what is intended. Does that give a little more assurance that it is being used simply to assist in working out whether further investigation should be done? It would not lead to revocation of a licence on its own.

Les Allamby: I think that is helpful—I would like to see any of those kinds of intentions in the Bill—but I come back to my fundamental point, which is that, as far as I understand it, the polygraph test is still untried in terms of its complete veracity, and we are using technology that has not been piloted in those circumstances. Frankly, if we are going to move to polygraph tests in those circumstances, I would much prefer them to be piloted, so we could then make a genuinely informed decision about their value before we start to take decisions that may have significant consequences.

Conor McGinn Portrait Conor McGinn
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q The fight against terrorism in Northern Ireland relies very heavily on co-operation between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda Síochána. Those two systems in the north and the south are almost integrated and work very closely together on that. Does the Bill contain anything that you think might place a question mark over that, or might the Irish Government feel that some of the Bill’s contents are incompatible with their approach to working with the UK authorities vis-à-vis countering terrorism in Northern Ireland?

Les Allamby: Conor, I honestly do not know; I have not had discussions with either the PSNI or Garda Síochána on those arrangements. I certainly do not detect from PSNI a great deal of desire to see those kinds of arrangements in place, which I certainly do not think will be enhanced, but I cannot comment meaningfully on that.

One thing that I would say is that the much more significant issue for us in terms of cross-border co-operation—it is outwith your Committee—is reaching effective security and justice arrangements when we leave the European Union at the end of December. Northern Ireland’s land border with another member state creates a full range of issues that I think are slightly different for the rest of the UK. I have not detected in public discourse anything to suggest that, but “I don’t know” is a shorter and more succinct answer.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Michael Clancy is the director of law reform at the Law Society of Scotland. Good afternoon, Mr Clancy.

Michael Clancy: Good afternoon, Chair; good afternoon everyone.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you for joining us; we very much appreciate you taking the time to give the Committee the benefit of your opinion. The purpose of the Bill is to protect the public from serious terrorist offenders. Do you agree that the Bill achieves that purpose by and large, and is it therefore a piece of legislation that, in broad terms, the Law Society of Scotland supports?

Michael Clancy: Thank you, Mr Philp. To answer about projecting what the effect of legislation will be on protecting the public and making people safer is quite difficult, because for me, as an individual, it would certainly be speculation to say that the Bill would protect people. Legislation has limited effect in terms of it being passed; it really has to be brought into effect and made to work through enforcement for the real impact to be felt. That is part of the issue about whether or not people would be protected by the Bill. It may be some time before we can turn around and do adequate research on the implementation of the measures in order to assume that people have, since its enactment, been better protected than they were before. It is difficult for me to comment on that.

That having been said, I know that sociologists and criminologists have been looking at this kind of things. In one article I picked up latterly, entitled “Does Terrorism Dominate Citizens’ Hearts or Minds? The Relationship between Fear of Terrorism and Trust in Government” by Ramon van der Does. He came to the conclusion that

“Despite its well-known effects on public health, safety, and finances, we still know little about how fear of terrorism can be mitigated.”

That might go some way to edging to an answer to the Minister’s question. Every Bill is good in parts, and has good parts, parts that can be improved by amendment during its passage and parts that, in some instances, should not be legislated at all. So, as you can tell from the Law Society of Scotland’s memorandum on the Bill, we take very much that kind of view.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q On the question of public protection, which you were kindly commenting on just then, one key element of the Bill is that there will be a minimum 14-year prison sentence for the most serious terrorist offenders, and for that cohort and some other serious terrorist offenders, all the sentence will be served in prison. Given the evidence we heard earlier today about how difficult it is to rehabilitate terrorist offenders and to predict whether they have been rehabilitated, do you agree that simply ensuring that they are unable to harm our fellow citizens by keeping them in prison for a longer period is the only certain way of keeping the public safe?

Michael Clancy: I certainly agree that, for those who are convicted of serious terrorist offences, keeping them in prison for a longer time means that they are not at liberty to commit other terrorist offences. Whether that actually means that they have no influence on others in the commission of terrorist offences—either those they meet in prison who are on their way towards release, or those with whom they can communicate outside prison while they are serving their sentence—is another matter.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you very much.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Minister, I think you wanted to make another point.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I have a couple of follow-up questions on the TPIM matter that you spoke about, Mr Clancy. In your oral evidence a few moments ago, you described the change in the burden of proof as problematic. I am not sure whether you heard the evidence we received this morning, but an assistant chief constable from counter-terror policing, speaking on his own behalf but also on behalf of the security services, said that lowering the standard of proof to reasonable suspicion would result in the public being better protected. He went on to lay out three potential circumstances in which that might be the case. One was rapidly changing threat levels from an individual; another was an individual returning from overseas; and there was a third circumstance as well. Given the evidence by counter-terror police on behalf of them and the security services that our citizens in the whole United Kingdom are safer with this measure, could I ask you to reconsider your description of it as problematic?

Michael Clancy: Of course you can ask me, Minister. That is certainly something I will take back and think about, because I was not aware that that evidence had been given this morning. I should say that this is, of course, a civil law provision, not a criminal law provision, in terms of the standard of proof. Of course we have to take into account the views of the counter-terrorism police experts and weigh them very heavily, but it is a different environment, in one sense, from the environment that the police are used to operating in—namely, beyond reasonable doubt. But I take your point and will give that some further thought.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q I am extremely grateful to you for the undertaking to think about it further. That shows very commendable flexibility in response to the clear evidence.

To give you further reassurance perhaps, the lower burden of proof, reasonable suspicion, is of course not a new burden of proof, because the old control orders, in force from 2005—they were introduced by the then Labour Government—and carrying on until 2012, had the same lower burden of proof, reasonable suspicion. This morning, I asked Jonathan Hall, the independent reviewer, whether he was aware of any problems that occurred during that seven-year period, 2005 to 2012, when that lower burden of proof was in force, and he was unaware of any issues caused by it. Does that give you further reassurance?

Michael Clancy: It does. Of course, set against that is the fact that very few of these orders were in place at that time. I think that, in doing some reading in advance of this session, I saw numbers in the mid-40s—46 orders or something like that. If they are going to be used at that kind of level of exercise, it is clearly going to impact on a smaller group of people. Small does not mean insignificant, in this circumstance, but we will just have to wait and see what the evidence of their use produces.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Indeed. The current number of TPIMs in force is actually six, and we do not anticipate large growth in the numbers as a result of these provisions.

I have one final point. You mentioned concerns about renewal. Of course, renewal, under these proposals, would take place annually. And you mentioned a few moments ago judicial oversight as a concern. Of course, the subject of the TPIM can at any time bring a legal challenge against the use of the TPIM if they feel that it has become unfair. Does the availability of that mechanism to bring a challenge give you reassurance that the subject of the TPIM does have recourse to the courts, and can be protected by a judge, if he or she feels that that is necessary?

Michael Clancy: Well, of course, yes, it gives me some reassurance. I am glad to hear you make such a clear statement of the interpretation of the Bill. Certainly, the TPIM is reduced for one year, but it is capable of being made indefinite. If one were to take action—as you have suggested someone who is subject to one of these orders might take action—it might be the case that the judge would only be able to quash the TPIM rather than make any variation. That might be a solution that we would mutually accept, but there may be implications from that I suppose.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q The Minister referred to clear evidence of the requirement for a drop in the standard of proof. Are you aware of any clear evidence, as opposed to anecdotal evidence?

Michael Clancy: I have no evidence. As I have said, the important thing would be to see how this change to the legislation works and then, in a shortish period of time—between two to five years—think in terms of having some kind of post-legislative review, which would enable us to see whether this legislation had functioned properly and had met the objectives that the Committee has been discussing this afternoon of making people safer and protecting them. Then we can come to a view as to whether or not that change in the standard of proof was the right one.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

We now come to our final witness of the day, Professor Donald Grubin of Newcastle University, who has had the benefit of hearing some of the exchanges earlier. Let us begin.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Professor Grubin, thank you very much for joining us this afternoon and taking the trouble to come here. We are extremely grateful to you. Perhaps you could start by introducing yourself to the Committee in the context of your academic background, and, in particular, your work on polygraphs.

Professor Grubin: I am a professor of forensic psychiatry, so I am a psychiatrist and not a polygraph examiner. I became interested in polygraph testing about 20 years ago in relation to work with offenders. What I found was that polygraph testing was being used very widely in the United States to monitor offenders. The people using it said, “This is fantastic. If they took it away, I would quit.” They would make comments like that, but the academics felt that there was no evidence for it and a lot of what we are hearing today is that it is not reliable. A lot of those issues were repeated. I became interested in that difference. We began to run some studies here in the UK. Gradually over time, a lot of evidence accumulated to show that it was a very effective means of monitoring and managing offenders in the community.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q You have a long academic background, principally at Newcastle University, and you have been studying polygraphs for 20 years. Can you describe the evidence you have seen in the last 20 years about the role that polygraphs can usefully play in the criminal justice system?  Feel free to comment on evidence from overseas as well as the United Kingdom.

Professor Grubin: The first thing to say is that there is a lot of misunderstanding about polygraph testing. We heard a lot of that earlier today, and I get very frustrated, because those same comments get repeated and repeated. There is also a lot of confusion about polygraph testing—what it is, what it does and how it is used.

In essence, all polygraph testing does is provide additional information—information gain—and it does that in two main ways. One is the test outcome, which people often get tied up in—is somebody lying or telling the truth?—but it is also about disclosures. The two are complementary. What every study ever carried out on polygraph testing has found is that when people are having a polygraph, they make disclosures. All the studies we have done here, and indeed the implementation of polygraph testing here with sex offenders, has found the same thing.

There was a comment that this has not been piloted, but we have now run about 5,000 tests in probation, with mandatory tests on sex offenders. We have tested over 2,000 individuals and the police, with voluntary testing, have tested about 1,000 individuals and run about 2,000 tests. We have a lot of information, and again we find that about 60% to 70% of tests result in new information that was not known before and is important to management.

The other aspect, of course, is test outcome. People always want to know how accurate it is, and we know —we have very good estimates. The best study was a comprehensive review carried out by the National Research Council in the United States about 20 years ago, when it was being raised for security vetting in Government agencies. It looked at all the available evidence and found it was between 80% and 90% accurate. That means it gets it wrong about one in five or one in 10 times, but that is a lot better than we can do.

The main question then is: is that accurate enough for the application you want to put it to? What we are talking about is post-release, post-conviction testing as part of monitoring offenders, and in that capacity it is being used alongside a number of other aspects of offender management. You are not relying on the polygraph either to clear someone or to send them back to prison or anything like that; it is not used in that way. It is just additional information that can be added. If you think about different sorts of results that you might get, if somebody, say, passes a polygraph test—I do not like to use the term pass, but I will for simplicity’s sake—and they do not make any disclosures and there are no other concerns about the individual, that provides reassurance that you are not missing anything; it is an agreement with everything else. If, on the other hand, you get some disclosures, that is something that can be investigated further. If somebody fails the polygraph, so they are thought to be lying, and there are already concerns, again, that reinforces that, but if there are not, the polygraph may be wrong—it may be one of the one in five or one in 10 times we have gotten it wrong—but it may also suggest that you need to look at it a bit closer and investigate further.

There were comments before about how if somebody fails a polygraph they are brought back to prison or brought before the courts. That is just not the policy, and we have heard that in the legislation that just does not happen. It is simply a warning sign that you had better take a closer look. Again, we have a lot of evidence from the testing we have done in this country—as I said, over 7,000 tests have been run—to show that that is in fact how things are working.

Can I say one last thing? We often present polygraph testing as if it is something that offenders do not like and is being imposed on them. That is true for some, but others actually find it useful. You have to remember that sometimes you catch people telling the truth, and where you have an individual who is being monitored, because a risk is a great cause of concern and there is a suspicion of them all the time, and they can demonstrate that they are actually not doing anything wrong and their risk is static or decreasing, that is very useful for them. We have anecdotal evidence of offenders saying they found that part of the testing helpful, and they like polygraph tests for that reason—because they can prove that they are following the rules.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q That is extremely helpful, thank you. What I think you are saying is that the context in which we are looking to use polygraphs for terror offenders, as for sex offenders at the moment in England and Wales, is as a prompt which may, in some circumstances, stimulate further investigation. Just to make sure I have understood you; your evidence is that all the studies you have seen say that that is a safe way of using polygraphs—as a prompt for further investigation—and that public protection is enhanced by doing it. Is that a fair summary of your evidence?

Professor Grubin: It is fair, except that I would say it is more than a prompt and that it actually uncovers information. You have to remember that a lot of this management relies on self-reports, so it is a way of saying, “We’re asking these questions anyway, only now we want you to tell the truth and we have a way of trying to determine whether you are telling the truth.” The other aspect, of course, which is often overlooked is its deterrence effect. If you know you are going to have a polygraph test, you are going to pay a lot closer attention to your activities, your actions and your behaviour. Again, we have a lot of anecdotal evidence—it is very difficult to prove—that people do modify their behaviour, because they know they are going to have a polygraph test.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My final question—

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I am going to have to move on. Let me just to go to Mr Cunningham.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Fair enough.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Otherwise, we will have too much.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Minister, I think I promised I would come back to you.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q That is extremely kind; I have two final points. We had some commentary from colleagues earlier, before you arrived, that there was no evidence that this would work with terrorist offenders. Given the work with sex offenders and the work on polygraphs around the world, can you comment on whether you believe this could be used to test terror offenders as part of their licence condition monitoring?

Professor Grubin: There are a couple of aspects to the answer to that. First, there is no reason to think it would not work similarly with terrorist offenders. They are people and they respond to polygraph testing like anybody else. It is used with terrorist offenders in other countries, but the problem is that that sort of work is not published. My understanding of it is anecdotal and what people have told me. They certainly find that its use is successful, and they get the same types of response that you would expect from the sex offender work. There is no real difference there. But none of that is published, so it is anecdotal.

One other thing to say from the sex offender work is that we looked at whether, after polygraph tests, there was an increase in actions taken by the probation officers managing those people. You get an increase by a factor of 10, sometimes higher, in actions taken. That does not necessarily mean recall to prison or charging with a new offence, but actions that mean you have an opportunity to reduce risk, which is really what you are looking for here. With any sort of offence where you have time to intervene, polygraph testing provides a good means to get that information to allow you to intervene and reduce risk.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q That brings me on to the very last question. You have mentioned that one of the main benefits of polygraph testing is that it prompts or helps to persuade the offender to disclose information that they would not otherwise disclose. You described that earlier as “information gain”. Could you give us some examples of how that happens and the kind of information gain that you have seen occur as this has been used?

Professor Grubin: I will give you a couple of examples of that, but the first thing to say is that we do not know why it happens. There are various psychological attempts to explain it, but I know that I have been polygraph tested as part of our training and it was all I could do not to confess to the crime that I was meant to have committed. There is a real urge to disclose that I do not really understand, but there are various theories that I am happy to discuss later on.

To give you a couple of examples off the top of my head, one interesting case was a sex offender who was released from prison. Everything was thought to be going well with him. He disclosed that he had a new girlfriend, which was not known to the offender manager. That seems pretty mundane, but when they found this girlfriend it turned out that she was a single mother, that she was a vulnerable woman, and that this man was visiting her and helping her to paint her sitting room. He would do that in his underwear because he did not want to get his clothes painted. Her daughter was present at that time. A lot of that mirrored the way he had offended before, so that one disclosure about having a new girlfriend led to that man being recalled to prison —not based directly on the disclosure, but only indirectly, once the girlfriend was found and interviewed.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Can you quantify the information gain?

Professor Grubin: I am not sure just what you would mean. I can tell you, because I checked these figures before I came, that in the probation testing about 65% of tests resulted in new disclosures in the pre-test. That is information that was important to management but was not known. That might be small bits of information or it might be big bits. After someone fails a test, they are asked to explain why that might be, and about 60% of those tests result in further disclosures to try to explain that. What I cannot say is how many of those were in tests where there were no pre-test disclosures, so it is likely that about two thirds or 70% of tests result in new information.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Wow. Thank you.

Professor Grubin: That does not count something that I think is important but that is always overlooked: the truthful tests with no disclosures that provide reassurance, because decisions can be made on that. In the police world, they do voluntary testing of sex offenders on the register. Someone who is on the register for 15 years and wants to come off it may have been visited once a year for the past five years; there may be no intelligence on him, and an inspector is expected to sign off this person based on that information. If he passes a polygraph test and nothing of concern comes up, that gives them reassurance. Often, though, in those cases we find that bits of information do come up that they should have been aware of, and then they can move forward.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Order. I am going to have to stop you there because we have run out of time. Thank you very much indeed for your evidence, Professor Grubin.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Tom Pursglove).

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Third sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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Committee stage & Committee Debate: 3rd sitting: House of Commons
Tuesday 30th June 2020

(4 years ago)

Public Bill Committees
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 30 June 2020 - (30 Jun 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Thank you very much. We will start with questions. We have until 9.55 am, when we have to end the session bang on the dot. First, I will ask the Minister if he would like to ask some questions.

Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Philp)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q 142 Mr Fairhurst, good morning. Let me start by thanking you for joining us and giving evidence this morning. I also thank you and all your members on behalf of the Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor, and I am sure the whole House of Commons, for the extraordinary dedication that your members show in discharging their duties in prisons up and down the country.

Mark Fairhurst: Thank you. That is most welcome, and it will be appreciated.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Good. May I start by asking about the monitoring and risk assessment that goes on in prisons? The reason I am asking is that, as you probably know, the Bill provides for serious terrorist offenders to stay in prison for the whole of their prison term, without the prospect of early release, so it is very important that we monitor and assess the risks during that sentence. Can you talk a bit about the work that is done in prisons to monitor and assess the risk of prisoners on an ongoing basis, both during the sentence and in the run-up to their release?

Mark Fairhurst: Sure. It is very much intelligence led and risk based. Throughout a TACT offender’s sentence, they will be allocated a key worker officer, who will get to know them and help them through their sentence plan. During that sentence plan, they will be offered the opportunity to address their offending behaviour, and they will be offered two deradicalisation programmes while they are in custody.

Staff will observe their behaviour on the wings, and who they mix with, and they will submit intelligence reports on a regular basis, specifically if they have concerns around radical behaviour while an offender is in custody. That will then lead to a multi-agency approach, and when the offender is coming up to their release point with the Parole Board, we put in place MAPPA arrangements. We will have reports from prison officers, psychologists, psychiatrists and healthcare, and we will liaise with security services, and a full picture will be presented prior to that person’s release.

As we have just witnessed with the Streatham attacker, he left prison as a high-risk, category A offender. The intelligence and the risks that we highlighted to the security services led to him being monitored 24 hours a day, because he was a significant risk to the public. When you look at it in that vein, what we did was appropriate and led to an atrocity being avoided because of the swift reaction. So I think we have got the risk part of the sentence planning really sufficient while in custody.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Let me congratulate your colleagues on the work that they did in identifying the Streatham risk. Interestingly in the Streatham case, the release point was automatic; there was no Parole Board involvement. Just to be absolutely clear, all of the risk assessment that you have described—the MAPPA, the psychologists’ reports and everything else that was then passed on to the police—can and does happen, even where there is no Parole Board involvement in the release, as was the case in Streatham and as would be the case under the new sentences we are talking about.

Mark Fairhurst: Yes, that is correct, even—[Inaudible] —reached the halfway point, because legislation dictated that we had no option but to do that. The intelligence we had gathered on his antisocial behaviour and radical behaviour in prison led the Security Service to believe that they were right in following and monitoring him upon his release so extensively. That would be the case in this situation as well. I believe that, with this Bill, at the two-thirds point, people must go through a parole process.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Well, no. For some offenders that is the case, but the most serious offenders will serve the entirety of their prison sentence in prison. Some will get Parole Board appraisal at the two-thirds point, but under this new legislation the most serious will spend the whole sentence in prison, which leads me on to my next question. Some people have suggested that without the prospect of Parole Board early release, it might be harder to control prisoners’ behaviour, because you have not got the carrot of early release that can be offered. Is that an analysis you share, or do you think that there are other ways of controlling prisoner behaviour in prison, even where there is no prospect of early Parole Board release?

Mark Fairhurst: That is a really valid point, and these concerns have been expressed from the frontline. I can give you an example. At the moment, if we are going to extend the sentences, and we are going to insist that the most serious offenders spend the entire sentence in prison, that will increase headroom in the high-security estate. Also, it incentivises people not to behave correctly or to go on deradicalisation courses.

For example, at the moment, we have funding, and we should have open three separation centres, but we have only got one, with a small number of the most influential and serious terrorist offenders, in play. That leads to serious concerns from my members who are in that separation centre at HMP Frankland, because we are now in a situation where the prisoners who are housed there are not engaging with staff whatever. We have had a really violent assault on a prison officer, and there is nowhere to transfer those prisoners to if they show violence towards staff or if they become a security risk. That is why we need more separation centres open, especially with the implementation of this Bill. More concerningly, there is now no incentive for good behaviour.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Clearly, those sentences are going to be served in full for reasons of public protection. You would probably agree that it is very hard to assess the risk of these kinds of terrorist offenders, particularly if they pretend to comply with deradicalisation programmes, but do not really mean it. Given that we are going to have these sentences served in full—it is a rather similar concept to automatic release at the halfway point, with no Parole Board involvement, and, of course, the majority of offences currently have automatic release at the halfway point with no Parole Board involvement—what measures do you think we should put in place to ensure good behaviour for those prisoners with no Parole Board early release? You mentioned additional separation centres, which is a very good idea. Can you talk the Committee through other steps that might be taken to ensure good behaviour by prisoners where the Parole Board carrot does not exist, whether that is SDS offenders currently or these new offenders in future?

Mark Fairhurst: I think the separation centres are the key. We need three open because, as you are all aware, the rise of the far right is a real concern for the security services. It would be unwise to put high-profile far-right extremist offenders in the same separation centre as Islamist extremist offenders, with staff stuck in the middle. That is the key point here.

To come to your point, what can we do to incentivise people to take part in deradicalisation courses if they know they are going to serve their full sentence? All we can do on the frontline is our best, and that is to try to engage with people, get to know them and encourage them to take part in deradicalisation. We involve imams and community groups to come in and speak to these people. We just keep chipping away, because it is down to the individual. Only the individual can change. We can encourage them to change. We can give them the ideas to change and the courses to help them change, but it is down to the individual. The biggest fear from the frontline is, “If I know, as a terrorist offender, that I am going to serve my full sentence, and I am not going to get any chance of early release, I might totally disengage, and that might reinforce my radical views, which leads me to a disruptive life inside.” That is the biggest fear.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I understand, although, of course, if they step over the criminal threshold, they will be prosecuted. Equally, there is no value in people pretending to engage with deradicalisation programmes just to secure early release, so we need to be mindful of that risk as well. Thank you, Mr Fairhurst.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Thank you. We move on to the shadow Minister, Alex Cunningham.

--- Later in debate ---
None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

We have until 10.25 am for this session. Professor Acheson, thank you very much for joining us. Would you like to introduce yourself and your organisation briefly, please?

Professor Acheson: My name is Ian Acheson. I used to be a frontline prison officer, so I would like to be associated with the comments that were made this morning. They are the unsung heroes of our criminal justice system, often overlooked and certainly undervalued. They do an amazing job.

I worked in the Prison Service as an officer and then as a governor. I left it and joined the Home Office via the Youth Justice Board, where I was the senior civil servant responsible for the Contest strategy, our counter-terrorism strategy, among other things in south-west England. After that, I joined the Equality and Human Rights Commission as the chief operating officer and I left public service then. I now work for a variety of organisations, including the Counter Extremism Project, which is an international non-profit organisation that looks at ways of countering violent extremism. I am also a visiting professor at Staffordshire University School of Law, Forensics and Policing.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Good morning, Professor Acheson. Thank you for taking the time to join us this morning. It is useful for us to hear from experts such as you. You have clearly done lots of work in the area of deradicalisation and counter-terrorism counselling and work. Could you describe to the Committee the techniques that you think are most effective in a prison setting to achieve the objective of deradicalisation?

Professor Acheson: The Prison Service, as we are all aware, is under a great deal of pressure, certainly in England and Wales. The backdrop is what I would describe as a significant decline in all sorts of metrics of good order, discipline and control across most, but not all, prisons. That provides a backdrop of instability, which is germane to your question. We need to have stable, well-run prisons with suitable and sufficient numbers of staff present to set the tone, to be able to control the environment and certainly to be able to spot and intervene early when they see signs of extremist-related behaviour, whether from prisoners imprisoned under terrorism legislation or others who look like they are being drawn into violent extremism.

One of the problems that I have with the system is that we do not seem to have an assertive and challenging approach to managing terrorist prisoners, or ideologically motivated prisoners, from the start of their sentence to their last day in community supervision. The system is fraught with problems of handovers between the Prison Service, the Parole Board and the probation service. I do not believe that that system of managing a particular set of prisoners with some unique characteristics is the right way of proceeding.

I would like to see a dedicated unit, if you will—I recommended that in my 2016 report; unfortunately it was not one of the recommendations that was taken forward—that manages offenders end to end, from literally the first night in custody to the last night of community sentence, and that has a detailed biographical understanding of a prisoner. That involves specialists, psychiatrists, theologians and various people intervening but managing that prisoner all the way through into the community.

Mark Fairhurst mentioned the importance of reintegration after custody for terrorist offenders. In some respects, integration is the key challenge as well. At the moment, the state has a monopoly on the management of terrorist offenders after custody in terms of MAPPA, where the probation service, the police and the Security Service manage the security aspects. There are no other organisations, apart from some voluntary organisations that are involved in the desistance and disengagement programme. We do not have any community involvement in the resettlement of terrorist offenders and their reintegration in the community. That is a big issue that needs to be addressed.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q You said that the engagement needs to be more assertive and used that word at the beginning of your answer. When you say “assertive”, what do you mean?

Professor Acheson: In relation to terrorist offenders, for example, the situation feels to me as though, as long as they are not creating any problems, they are largely left alone. When they start to create problems, there are alternatives, which could include segregation, administrative penalties or incentives and earned privileges penalties. In extremis, if they are subversive—this was one of my recommendations that was taken forward, as you might be aware—separation centres exist for them.

We need to make sure that we look at it from the sentencing point. To illustrate it like this: what is really important is that we have got some sort of baseline measurement for a judge, after a conviction, to inform sentencing. We do not have that at the moment. We do have pre-sentence reports, I understand that, but we do not have a sufficient level of granularity or expertise put into that plan, which is the baseline measurement of dangerousness, for any terrorist offenders.

As you are aware, they are a very heterogeneous group. They resist being compartmentalised. We have people who murder people who are losers and we have people who murder people who are university graduates. There is an enormous variety and it resists generic sheep dip-style approaches. I am afraid I would categorise healthy identity intervention as one of those processes that I do not think works. We need to go back to having this baseline measurement at the start, managed by one unit all the way through that is frequently looking at whether dangerousness has increased or decreased, and devising and managing interventions to meet that individual pathology, that individual terrorist profile.

I am aware that Lord King has said in Parliament that you are recruiting some prison imams to take part in ideological interventions. That is very good news—so, theological, psychological, family-related and substance misuse. It is important to look at these people as individuals if you want to reduce their dangerousness. It is important to look at that dangerousness as early as possible, with the right people managing it all the way through.

As I have said before—I do not want to repeat myself—I think the system is far too fractured at the moment. We are only talking about 220-odd offenders at the moment, with the Government making what I think is the fairly optimistic estimate of an extra 50 as a result of the new legislation. It will increase because of the police and security services’ ability to spot people further and further upstream from actual terrorist incidents. That number will increase, but it is still a manageable number and it is still worth while investing significantly.

I am not a great fan of the statistic that is bandied about that says that only 5% to 10% of terrorist offenders reoffend after custody. That is a proven reconviction for a terrorist offence. That is a very lazy proxy for damage. If you apply that to our number of offenders, that means there are another 11 Sudesh Ammans in the system. That is completely intolerable and unacceptable. I do not think we should be comforted by the fact that some research is showing us that recidivism is fairly low. There is research in Europe that says that the period immediately following release of a terrorist offender is the period of most risk. That does not fit the profile of the Westminster bridge attacker, who waited for 11 or 12 months before something mobilised him into murdering two young people. We have to apply a very individualised, very assertive and challenging approach.

You talked about incentives and so on earlier with Mark Fairhurst. I think that might be looking at it in slightly the wrong way. I have a bit of a problem with the philosophical and organisational fitness of the Prison Service, the probation service and the Parole Board to manage these particular offenders. They are ideologically inspired offenders. We must insist they adopt civilised values, not look at it as a thing that needs to be rewarded. That is very difficult. I am not suggesting it is simple.

Just to avoid any misunderstanding, in my specification for separation centres, I specifically designed a regime—and suggested this to the Prison Service—that was not punitive and which was, as I have described it, a humanised approach. We cannot talk to dead terrorists; we can talk to live ones. We can find out an enormous amount. We can influence them an enormous amount with the right skills and the right staffing to be able to have a good sense of how dangerous they are and influence them towards disengagement, or desistance if disengagement is not possible.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I suspect that your evidence is extremely useful to the Committee, but I have to ask for slightly shorter answers, please.

--- Later in debate ---
Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Professor Silke, thank you for taking the time to give evidence to the Committee this morning. Based on your experience from around the world, could you tell the Committee your views on the most effective ways of managing and ideally deradicalising prisoners within a prison environment?

Professor Silke: That is a crucial question. Probably one of the starting points—this has been touched on by some of the others who gave evidence—is how the UK sits in terms of the international approach to dealing with terrorism among violent extremist offenders. Overall, you would probably argue that the UK’s approach is seen as one of the better available approaches and enjoys what is seen internationally as a good success rate. I know that that is difficult to consider in the context of the attacks that took place in Streatham and London Bridge, but overall the UK’s system for dealing with terrorist prisoners is seen as one of the more effective ones available internationally.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Which elements are particularly effective, and do you see any opportunities to improve them further?

Professor Silke: The approach has transformed a lot in the past 10 years. There has been a variety of ways in which it has changed. I am particularly looking at the approach in England and Wales here. First is the development of specialised risk assessment tools and frameworks for dealing with terrorist prisoners. There was recognition in the 2000s that the existing risk assessment tools did not work well with terrorist prisoners and that they needed something that was more specialised to more reliably assess risk with them. This led to the development of the extremism risk guidance 22+—the ERG—which is a bespoke risk assessment tool now used in England and Wales. In my view it has genuinely enhanced and transformed risk assessment for these prisoners, making it much more viable compared with what it had been prior to the introduction of this programme.

Tied into the development of the ERG has been the development of a number of interventions. The healthy identity intervention has already been mentioned, and desistance and disengagement has been flagged as well. The healthy identity intervention draws on the ERG, so the two of them are linked to some degree. HII has come in for criticism, but it is actually a much better intervention than perhaps it gets credit for. It tackles a lot of the issues that we are concerned about in terms of offender radicalisation. I have had the opportunity of being able to interview prisoners before and after they have gone on this programme, and certainly in many cases I have seen a transformational change in prisoners.

The other factor—this has also been raised in other testimony before the Committee—relates to post-release behaviour by prisoners. We have an extremely low reoffending rate for terrorist prisoners in the UK, which we should not dismiss out of hand. If we could get similarly low levels of reoffending for other types of offenders, we would be extremely happy.

Failures with interventions—such as a prisoner taking an intervention, being released and then reoffending—does not mean that the intervention itself is useless or ineffective in the majority of cases for people who use it. We should reflect that all the interventions used in the prison system, for a whole range of offences, have their failures. This does not mean that we should stop using them or abandon them or view them as unhelpful in the majority of cases.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Thank you. Would you agree that the historical involvement of the Parole Board in offering the possibility of early release does not really have any meaningful impact on prisoner rehabilitation or behaviour? Or to the extent that it does, that it may simply stimulate false compliance—pretending to comply with deradicalisation programmes in the hope of securing early release?

Professor Silke: It is a complicated question. In general, I agree with Mark Fairhurst’s point that the potential for early release is an important incentive for behaviour in custody. If we lose the potential for early release, we are losing a tool from the toolbox, and we need to question whether that is sensible, or whether there are advantages in keeping it in some shape or form.

Does false compliance happen? Yes, it certainly does, but if we look at reoffending stats, compliance seems to be genuine in most cases. Nobody has a 100% effective intervention for dealing with these types of prisoner or any other type of prisoner, so we should never expect an intervention to be 100% accurate. However, the stats suggest that what is happening in prison with most terrorist prisoners is currently effective, and so if we are making changes to the regime and to the interventions, we need to have a careful think about what the knock-on consequences might be.

Personally, I prefer still to have the potential for early release at some stage as a tool in the toolbox for these serious offenders. I think it can make a difference in some cases. From my perspective, the Parole Board usually brings a serious and considered assessment of the available evidence in a particular case, which is often very welcome. Again, by removing that from the equation, are we losing something that has value?

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Q Good morning, Professor Silke. Are the current deradicalisation programmes in prisons fit for purpose? If not, what needs to happen?

Professor Silke: The problems are relatively new. My view is that they work far better than most members of the general public want to think. Again, the proof is in the very low reconviction rates that we see after people have been released. If it is working in the vast majority of cases, that is an encouraging sign. If there are failures, we need to look into that. One thing that the Bill does not do in its current format is try to identify what is different about the failures compared with the rest of the prisoners who are being released—what went wrong in their cases compared to the others? I am not sure that we are getting at that at the moment.

The evidence base around both risk assessment and interventions for terrorist prisoners is in development. It is massively better today than 10 years ago, and I think it will continue to improve. I know that the Ministry of Justice is involved in a range of programmes to improve the evidence base around ERG and healthy identity intervention, which I strongly welcome. Many Governments are involved in similar efforts overseas.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Fourth sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage & Committee Debate: 4th sitting: House of Commons
Tuesday 30th June 2020

(4 years ago)

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Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 30 June 2020 - (30 Jun 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

On this side of the debate, we want to reduce the threat of extremists and ensure that appropriate punishment is handed down to those who commit or seek to commit an act of terror. However, we should not pursue that by reducing the seriousness of this heinous crime, just to be seen to be doing something about it. The burden of proof is important, as is ensuring that courts, whether juries or sentencers, reach a solid burden of proof, such as “beyond reasonable doubt”, before coming to such a serious conclusion. We seek clarity, and the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that terrorist connections will be subject to the same criminal standard of proof as we currently know it. Otherwise, I fear that this measure will undermine our efforts to keep us safe and let down individuals, particularly from an ethnic minority, who are already disproportionately sent to prison under the criminal justice system.
Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Philp)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe, in our line-by-line consideration of the Bill. I thank the shadow Minister for his opening remarks, in which he expressed general support for the objectives of the Bill. I hope that we can, as he said, provide an example of constructive cross-party working, although I am sure he will have many questions about the detail. As the shadow Minister has said, and as the hon. Member for Coventry North West said in her speech, the threat that terrorism poses is a serious one, and one of our heaviest responsibilities as Members of Parliament is to protect our fellow citizens from such attacks, but in a way that is lawful, fair and just.

Amendment 35 seeks to specify a beyond-reasonable-doubt standard of proof in making the terrorist connection, as clause 1 does. I am happy to confirm for the shadow Minister that existing criminal court procedure already requires the criminal standard of proof to be met in making a determination of a terrorist connection, or indeed any finding of fact in relation to sentencing. If, after conviction by a jury, there is a finding of fact to be made by the judge prior to sentencing in what is known as a “Newton” hearing, under existing procedures the criminal standard of proof is applied. On the request that the shadow Minister and his colleagues make, I am happy to confirm that it is already inherent in the operation of our criminal justice system, and rightly so, for all the reasons that the shadow Minister and the hon. Member for Coventry North West have outlined. I trust that on the basis of that assurance they will see fit not to press the amendment, given that the provision they call for is already enshrined in law.

One further point: both the shadow Minister and the hon. Member for Coventry North West raised the question of what happens if the judge makes an error or exhibits some form of conscious or unconscious bias. That is extremely rare, but, if it did happen, there are of course appeal rights against both the sentence and any erroneous finding of fact associated with it. If a defendant or, by this point, an offender who has been convicted feels that the sentence is genuinely unfair or that an unfair determination has been made of a terrorist connection, they can appeal, so a safety mechanism by way of appeal also exists. I hope that on that basis the shadow Minister will not press the amendment to a vote.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. He believes that the matters are already covered in existing law, but perhaps he will accept that later in the Bill we will be discussing how we make sure that what has happened over a period of time has in fact demonstrated that the judges have got it right. In other words, we will revisit this matter with a view to seeking a form of review of how the legislation is working to ensure that we do not have the particular problems that might well be possible. I am also grateful to him for reminding us that in criminal proceedings we still have an appeal process in this country, and I am sure that that would operate appropriately. On the basis of what the Minister has said and on the basis that we will seek reassurance through a review process later in the Bill, I am content to beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

--- Later in debate ---
The Government’s duty under the Equality Act 2010 goes further than the Bill’s equality statement acknowledges —it includes the duty to foster good relations between people who share a characteristic and those who do not. Given the evidence of institutional discrimination across the criminal justice system, the Bill carries a severe risk of reinforcing stereotypes that result in unfair treatment and the stigmatising of a large group of people on the basis of their religious belief and ethnicity. The amendment invites the Government to describe the actions they will take, and subsequently review, to ensure that that risk is averted.
Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the shadow Minister for his detailed exposition of some of the risks that we must seek to navigate and overcome. For justice to function, we must make sure that it is truly even-handed and fair in assessing anyone who comes before the court, regardless of their background, race or religion.

Taiwo Owatemi Portrait Taiwo Owatemi
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is the Minister not concerned that, without proper consideration of the impact of the Bill on many BAME communities, relationships between these communities and authorities may worsen?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let me come on to that point, which is the substance of the amendment. The amendment calls for an assessment prior to the clause coming into effect; it does not ask for an assessment afterwards but beforehand. I submit to the Committee that the impact assessment published with the Bill and the accompanying equality statement, which looks specifically at questions of racial and religious discrimination—or the potential for those things to happen—has already thoroughly analysed the Bill’s potential impact. That detailed analysis, which obviously included a review by Government lawyers and others, concluded that nothing in the Bill would unlawfully discriminate against people of a particular ethnic or religious background within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010.

Of course, the provisions in the Bill are simply based on a measure of criminality—has somebody committed a specified offence? Is there a terrorist connection? Nothing in any of those provisions is biased for or against anyone from any particular background, as is the case with all laws that Parliament passes.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister says that nothing in the Bill would lead to further discrimination. I should hope that that would be the case for any legislation we pass. However, the fact remains that there are certain groups within our society—BAME and other groups—who are disproportionately disadvantaged in the legal system. The amendment asks the Minister to recognise that there could be even more of that as a direct result of the provisions of the Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Where there are concerns of the nature of those raised in the Lammy review, which I think the shadow Minister or the hon. Member for Coventry North West mentioned earlier, the Government are committed to responding to those. Indeed, in a sense, we are in the wrong room in Parliament today to raise that, because there was an urgent question earlier on exactly that topic, to which the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) responded.

The Government are committed to acting in response to the Lammy review to make sure that no unconscious biases discriminate against any particular group. I have not had a chance to read the Hansard of the debate, and I suspect the shadow Minister has not either, but based on the conversations that I have heard taking place in the Ministry of Justice, I think that the Government generally and the Ministry of Justice in particular are committed to taking action where needed. I would have expected the response of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham to the urgent question an hour or two ago to have confirmed that.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The fact remains that the Lammy review talked about a whole range of provisions that were supposed to be implemented, but very few of them have been. Some have been partially implemented and others have not. Can the Minister simply accept that we are failing as a Government and a Parliament to ensure that discrimination does not exist in our system? We are simply not taking the action to do that. Does he further accept that the more legislation we have where particular groups of people, BAME or otherwise, feel that they are being discriminated against, the greater the discord in society?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Recent events obviously tell us how important it is to maintain social cohesion and confidence in the criminal justice system. The hon. Gentleman raises a point that goes far beyond the scope of the Bill, but it is a fair point none the less. If he listens to what my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham, my fellow Justice Minister, said in the House of Commons Chamber earlier, he will see that the Government are resolved to act where necessary to address issues of that kind.

The substance of the Bill is obviously public protection. It makes no distinction between any kind of terrorism, whether rooted in a twisted religious ideology or a far-right ideology, or terrorist acts committed for any other reason. The Bill, as with all Bills, as the hon. Gentleman says, is even-handed between different kinds of offence and different kinds of offenders. Where we need to do more systemically, not just in relation to the Bill but across the whole range of the criminal justice system, to make sure that everybody gets a fair hearing and fair treatment, the Government will do that. I hope that the response of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham to the urgent question earlier will give assurance on that point. No doubt there will be many more opportunities to debate it.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On the specific question of amendment 36 to clause 1 and amendment 42 to clause 21, which call for an impact assessment prior to the commencement of those clauses, I repeat what I said earlier. We have already done that. It has been published as the impact assessment together with the Bill and the equality statement that went with it. The obligation being requested by the amendments has already been discharged, but of course we must remain mindful, as the shadow Minister eloquently said, of potential unconscious biases. We must be vigilant and make sure that our justice system is not in any way besmirched by them. I am confident that the measures my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham laid out earlier will achieve that.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sorry that the Minister would not give way, because I wanted to press him on that particular matter. We have several days of debate, so we have plenty of time to deal with these issues. It is a bit disappointing.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I apologise; I did not realise that the hon. Gentleman was trying to intervene. Had I realised, I would, of course, have given way.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Fair enough; I accept that.

The Minister was talking about how the Bill is important for public protection and I agree. It is essential to protect the interests of the public, but if the Bill results in a growing number of terrorists in prison, and if we are releasing into the community people who are still radicalised—or even new people who they managed to radicalise when they were in prison—perhaps public protection will not gain in the way that the Government hope.

I accept the Minister’s statement that he believes the law covers that, but I am disappointed that we cannot accept that a review, although it might cost a few pounds and take some time to commission, would at least give us some information to enable us to understand how well or how badly the legislation is working. I accept what he said, however, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We touched on many of the purposes of clause 1 in our debate on amendments 35 and 36. Very briefly, clause 1 seeks to give judges the power to make a factual finding after conviction that a particular offence has a terrorist connection, to the standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt, as has been discussed, rather than simply referring to a fixed schedule of offences. If, for example, somebody commits an offence that is a serious offence but is not currently on the list of terrorist offences, the finding of terrorist connection can none the less be made. That has consequences in the rest of the Bill, and we will debate them in due course.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 2

Meaning of “serious terrorism offence”: England and Wales

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The purpose of clause 2 is to create new categories of offences in relation to the new serious terrorism sentences. It defines the meaning of a “serious terrorism offence” in England and Wales, so that a sentencing court can establish whether an offender has committed a qualifying offence for the purpose of applying the serious terrorism sentence, which we will discuss more in due course.

The clause will amend section 306 of the sentencing code to include a new category of serious terrorism offence, with two subsets of offences: those in part 1 of schedule 17A, which specifies offences with a life penalty that are terrorist or terrorist-related; and those in part 2, which specifies offences with a life penalty that may be found to have a designated terrorist connection further to section 69 of the sentencing code, as amended.

Clause 2 inserts new schedule 17A into the sentencing code that is currently making its way through Parliament, so that those offences can be identified as serious terrorism offences by the sentencing court for the purposes of setting a serious terrorism sentence or, alternatively, an extended sentence.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clause 3

Offences relevant for provisions of this Act relating to Northern Ireland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 3 has essentially the same purpose as clause 2. Clause 2 applied to England and Wales; clause 3 does essentially the same thing in relation to Northern Ireland, by amending article 12 of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.

Conor McGinn Portrait Conor McGinn (St Helens North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There is a specific point on this and some other measures in this Bill pertaining to Northern Ireland: they will require a legislative consent motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly. To start as we mean to go on, and so that I do not have to ask the Minister this at every juncture, will he outline what representations he has received from the Northern Ireland Executive, specifically the Justice Minister? For the benefit of the Committee, will he also set out what it means to have to go through the legislative consent motion process?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Under the Sewel convention, where a provision in UK legislation touches on a matter that is devolved to one of the nations of the United Kingdom, one applies for a legislative consent motion. Most of the Bill, relating as it does to terrorist offences, is reserved to the UK Government, but some relatively limited elements of it touch on matters that are ordinarily devolved. For them, we will of course seek a legislative consent motion under the Sewel convention. In that context, we have made contact with the Scottish Government in Holyrood and with the Northern Ireland Administration—in particular, with Justice Minister Naomi Long. We have entered into fairly extensive correspondence, which is ongoing, about the provisions in the Bill. The Justice Minister in Northern Ireland has raised various matters, which she has asked questions about, asked for clarification about and wanted to discuss further. Those discussions and that correspondence are ongoing.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Clause 4

Serious terrorism sentence for adults aged under 21: England and Wales

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 37, in clause 4, page 5, line 32, at end insert—

“(7) The pre-sentence report must—

(a) take account of the offender’s age;

(b) consider whether options other than a serious terrorism sentence might be more effective at—

(i) reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or

(ii) rehabilitating the offender.

(8) The court must take account of any points made by the pre-sentence report in relation to the matters in subsection (7) and consider whether they constitute exceptional circumstances under subsection (2).”

--- Later in debate ---
Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. As others have said, it would have been better if there had been proper risk assessments of a number of aspects of the Bill, because many clauses do not seem to be evidence-based. We know that we have funding problems within the prison system. We know that we have, as we heard this morning, disjoints between various elements of the course through the system for offenders. There is an awful lot of work to do, and there are a number of respects in which I do not feel that the Bill is fit for purpose. It would have been better if it had been based on proper evidence of what works to reduce the threat to the public and improve rehabilitation.

Children have long been treated differently in sentencing considerations, and the amendments would enable particular considerations for young adults, particularly of their maturity. Mr Hall, the independent reviewer, was concerned that, unless these considerations are taken into account, we risk locking people up for too long, building bitterness and a refusal to engage in the prison system, and actually, on eventual release, potentially a greater risk. He considered that longer and more punitive sentences do not in themselves ensure that people are less dangerous on release, and that while extending sentences for serious offenders may, of course, keep them out of our harm’s way for a temporary period, we do not want them to leave prison more dangerous than when they entered.

Early release provides prisoners with the incentive to behave and show that they are capable of reform. We heard powerful evidence that prison staff are at increased risk of harm where hope is lost. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North said, many studies show that young terrorist offenders are much more likely to reform than older offenders, yet the Bill treats a young adult who has just turned 18 the same as an older offender. Are the Secretary of State and the Minister concerned that the Bill effectively gives up on those offenders?

We need to look at the evidence, not the tabloids. We need a flexible response that is offender-based, and it must be tailored. If we really want to enable rehabilitation and reduce the harm to the public, I hope that the Minister will consider the amendment.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will speak to the amendments relating to younger offenders. There are a couple of things to be clear about first of all. For the sake of absolute clarity, offenders who are under the age of 18 are not subject to the 14-year minimum prison sentence. Only offenders over the age of 18 are subject to those provisions. The amendments relate to offenders aged between 18 and 21, so we are discussing a very specific cohort.

I agree and concur with many points that the shadow Minister and the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth made about rehabilitation, and about the increased opportunity for rehabilitation for younger people. It is of course the case that younger people are more open to change—particularly as their brains mature—than older people, and it is right that we try to work with them to achieve that. I would not dispute that as a general principle, but clause 4 as drafted applies to an extremely small subsection of those offenders aged between 18 and 21. It by no means applies to the generality of offenders, including terrorist offenders, aged 18 to 21. It applies to that narrow subsection who have committed a serious terrorist offence, as we have discussed already, but it also requires a finding by the judge, following a pre-sentence report—something the shadow Minister referred to in his amendment and in his speech—of dangerousness. What a finding of dangerousness means in law is that there is a significant risk of the offender causing serious harm by committing further serious terrorism or other specified offences.

There are already two hurdles to jump: a serious terrorist offence, followed by a finding of dangerousness based on a pre-sentence report. However, there is also a third hurdle that must be jumped before a younger offender aged 18 to 21 would fall into the scope of this clause, which is that, at the time of committing the offence. they were aware, or should have been aware, that their offence was very likely to result in or contribute to multiple deaths. That is a well-established test dating back to section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000. We are talking about an extremely small subsection of offenders aged 18 to 21 and a very small subsection even of terrorist offenders—those who meet all three of those criteria.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I wonder whether it really is true that it is such a small cohort of offenders, because the Bill opens up the number of offences that can be considered severe enough for this sentence to be passed. There may currently be very few, but this new law extends the offences quite considerably—in fact, in some ways, it leaves it quite open for people to determine that a terrorist offence or a terrorist connection is involved. Surely there is more opportunity now for people to be serving this sort of sentence.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The provisions open it up for judges to make a finding of a terrorist connection, but the impact assessment for the Bill refers to a potential increase in the prison population of 50 people. Of course, that is for all ages over 18; if we consider how many of those estimated additional 50 places might be occupied by people aged between 18 and 21, one might reasonably assume that the number at any one time will certainly be less than 10 and possibly even less than five. That is an estimate, but none the less, it appears in the impact assessment.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It might be helpful, as the Bill progresses, if the Minister could publish some of the facts and the evidence for the claim he has just made about the 50 people and the relatively small number of younger people.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think the number 50 appears in the impact assessment, and I would be happy to look into the basis for that estimate. As for the number of younger people, that was something that I spontaneously generated, based on the fact that we are talking about a three-year range from 18 to 21, whereas the number of offenders will generally cover all ages, from 18 upwards.

The point I am making is that, while I accept the generality of what the shadow Minister and the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth say about the need to have hope and to have an opportunity to rehabilitate, we are talking about a very small number of very serious offenders, who have been assessed as dangerous following a pre-sentence report and who have engaged in activity likely to cause multiple deaths. In those very serious circumstances, I think it is appropriate, and I think the public would also think it is appropriate, that we protect the public for an extended period, as this Bill does.

If we are talking about other offenders, including terrorist offenders who do not meet that level of seriousness—there are many—all the comments made about rehabilitation and the chance to reform do legitimately apply. Indeed, we heard in evidence earlier today that the proven reoffending rate on release for that sort of offender is between 5% and 10%, which is an extraordinarily low figure compared with other cohorts. That suggests that the rehabilitation work done in prison is effective, as I think our last witness this morning suggested.

It is important, given the assessment of dangerousness that is made, that the pre-sentence report fully reflects the offender’s ability to change and the changes to the brain and so on that take place around the early 20s. That is a point that my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury, who is not with us this afternoon as he is attending the Justice Committee, has made to me. I will discuss with the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer)—I would not like to get my north, south, east and west muddled up—who is the prisons and probation Minister, whether there is any more we can do to make sure that these pre-sentence reports fully reflect the points that the shadow Minister and the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth have made about people’s ability to change. Those points are relevant in the context of assessing dangerousness, because if someone is undergoing changes, they may be less dangerous than someone who is fixed in their ways. I will take up that point with my hon. and learned Friend.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister may well be considering whether he is prepared to take the risk with this small cohort of people. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth outlined earlier, these individuals, who could reach middle age before there is any prospect of the state being off their back, are susceptible to further radicalisation in prison and might radicalise others. Surely, therefore, there is an element of risk that needs to be considered so that we can try to balance things.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

--- Later in debate ---

Division 1

Ayes: 6


Labour: 5
Scottish National Party: 1

Noes: 8


Conservative: 8

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In my response to the amendment, I described the effect of the clause and the tests to be applied. If those tests are met, the minimum sentence of 14 years will be imposed, followed by a licence period of not less than seven years and not greater than 25. I beg to move that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 4 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5

Serious terrorism sentence for adults aged 21 or over: England and Wales

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 38, in clause 5, page 7, line 35, after “25 years.”, insert—

“(5) Where—

(a) a prisoner is subject to a licence for an extension period under this section, and

(b) the qualifying period has expired,

the Secretary of State shall, if directed to do so by the National Probation Service, order that the licence is to cease to have effect.

(6) Where—

(a) the prisoner has been released on licence for an extension period under this section;

(b) the qualifying period has expired; and

(c) if the prisoner has made a previous application under this subsection, a period of at least twelve months has expired since the disposal of that application,

the prisoner may make an application to the National Probation Service under this subsection.

(7) Where an application is made under subsection (6) above, the National Probation Service—

(a) shall, if it is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that the licence should remain in force, direct the Secretary of State to make an order that the licence is to cease to have effect;

(b) shall otherwise dismiss the application.

(8) In this section, ‘the qualifying period’, in relation to a prisoner who has been released on licence, means the period of ten years beginning with the date of his release.”

The main area of concern that has led to the amendment relates to the maximum 25 years on licence specified by the Bill. We of course accept that we cannot have a cliff-edge situation whereby someone leaves prison without any further monitoring, particularly offenders in this cohort. There must be a licence period once the offender leaves prison. The issue is whether a licence period of up to 25 years is reasonable and whether it is a proportionate way of addressing the problem. There is also the concern over the lack of any review mechanism.

A licence for 25 years is equivalent to a licence for life. As well as severely curtailing the human rights of the offender after they have already completed their full custodial sentence, a licence for life also fundamentally constrains their ability to play an active part in society. For example, it would be a constant barrier to employment and—who knows?—perhaps new relationships. We would essentially be telling people that there is no point in them rehabilitating or contributing to society, because they will always be under suspicion—always under the careful watch and restriction of the state. A life on licence reduces individuals’ capability to reform and take positive action. It can have a detrimental impact on the joys of life that can keep an individual on the straight and narrow.

There is also the issue of the administrative burden on an already overworked National Probation Service, which has a financial cost, and which requires additional trained probation officers to deal with those released on licence. I would be interested to know where the idea for a term of 25 years on licence comes from. Is the Government’s intention simply that anyone convicted and sentenced to a determinate sentence of 14 years, with 25 years on licence, should have a life sentence, with the state constantly on their case and without any prospect of being released from it? If so, the Minister should say so. Can he confirm that there is logic in the period that he has decided on? Has he looked at the costs and at whether 20-year licenses, which would naturally be less expensive for the state, might be just as effective?

As I have said, the main area of concern that these amendments address is the maximum 25 years on licence specified by the Bill, which is effectively a licence for life under an indeterminate sentence for public protection. However, unlike the licence for life, the Bill does not allow for the licence to be terminated in certain circumstances. That creates an issue of unfairness, as well as a huge administrative burden, at a cost to the public purse.

I agree with the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall, who said:

“determining whether a 7-year, 15-year or 25-year licence is appropriate at the point of sentencing for dangerous individuals who have committed the most serious offences may be asking courts to engage in guesswork.”

I personally would not feel confident in making such a decision. Would the Minister?

As I said earlier, there is a concern about existing case law and guidance available for sentencers on identifying terrorism connections when sentencing. We cannot expect sentencers to feel truly comfortable and informed if the frame of what licence they can impose is so broad. It is worth reiterating that a 25-year licence period is not so different from a licence for life. However, whereas licences for life imposed on imprisonment for public protection prisoners could be terminated in appropriate cases, that does not apply to serious terrorism sentences. It feels like the principle of rehabilitation is again being somewhat missed.

I spoke earlier this afternoon about young people. Is it the Minister’s intention that they are effectively to remain on licence until within a few years of the state retirement age? A 14-year term for a 20-year-old means that they will be 59 before they are free of the licence. Will the Minister clarify the merits of 25-year licensing and address young people in particular?

I am a strong believer in people doing their time for violent offences, but with a strong focus on rehabilitation. Our amendment would give them some hope that their good behaviour has paid off after time. Perhaps we need to give people sight of a future where they would live their lives in a very different way—an honest and crime-free way. What, if anything, can the Minister offer those people—particularly younger ones?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The shadow Minister posed a question: why a maximum of 25 years? Therein lies the answer.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Maybe I misunderstood, but I thought the 25 years was mandatory.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, it is a maximum. The licence period is between seven and 25 years; within that, the judge has discretion to choose the most appropriate length of time. The point that I was about to make is that it is up to judicial discretion to decide the appropriate length of time. We ask the judge to make that determination, as we do when setting any licence condition. That is the way the licence system works at the moment. The judge sets the licence period at the point of sentence.

The shadow Minister, quoting the independent reviewer, asked, “How can the judge know in advance what a suitable length of time may be, looking potentially as far as 25 years into the future?” The answer to that question is that although the licence period cannot and in my view should not be varied by the Probation Service acting administratively—that is for the judge to decide—the Probation Service can, and frequently does, vary the terms of the licence conditions; as an offender behaves better over time and matures, or as their radical or criminal behaviour more generally changes as they get older, the licensing conditions can be and are relaxed. The Probation Service does that as a matter of routine, and I would expect and hope for that to happen as time passes.

Were we to give the Probation Service the ability to change the length of licence period, it would be overriding a judicial decision, which is wrong in principle and would possibly infringe article 6 of the European convention on human rights, which says that the Government should not be allowed to interfere with or alter a sentence handed down by the court.

The shadow Minister mentioned the arrangements for terminating licence conditions for indeterminate sentences—that is, the old imprisonment for public protection I referred to previously. As the name implies, those IPPs are indeterminate and indefinite. A judge has not imposed a time limit, so they could go on for the duration of somebody’s life. Some termination mechanism is needed.

Where a judge has made a decision—and it is up to the judge to choose, at their discretion, somewhere between seven and 25 years—it is right that licence condition is applied for that length of time. However, to reassure the Committee and the shadow Minister, I should say that the Probation Service can, as appropriate, relax and change those licence conditions as time passes. That is the right way of handling the issue.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I accept the Minister’s explanation and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have covered many of the operative provisions. They are rather similar to the ones we debated in clause 4, in relation to people under the age of 21.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 5 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6

Serious terrorism sentence: Scotland

Kenny MacAskill Portrait Kenny MacAskill (East Lothian) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 43, in clause 6, page 8, line 10, at end insert—

“(ea) the court does not impose an order for lifelong restriction under section 210F of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, and”.

This amendment disapplies Clause 6 if an order for lifelong restriction, a sentence unique to Scotland, has been imposed.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. Before I move to the specifics of amendment 43, I will say by way of preface where my party and I are coming from. As the Minister is aware, we recognise that it is the duty of not just a Government to keep their citizens safe and secure; it is the obligation of all who serve in Parliament. At the outset, we have given the Government our assurance that any opposition will attempt to be as constructive as possible, to ensure that the challenge of terrorism that we now see, sadly, all too regularly in our communities, is addressed and that we keep our people as safe as they can be.

Some issues concern us. The burden of proof has been mentioned in terms of TPIMs. The balance of the burden of proof has been an issue for over 40 years, since my involvement in the law—and, in a way, since the legal profession and legal systems came about. We recognise that there is good reason why there has to be some distinction when it comes to terrorism and that standards that might normally apply in a wider criminal trial cannot be expected, especially with regard to TPIMs. However, there still has to be an element of proportionality, and we have to ensure that we protect the rights of those who face considerable periods of loss of liberty. That is why we have concerns and are watching the situation.

Sadly, the issue disproportionately impacts BAME communities; we are conscious of that. It is clear that we are required not only to protect our people from terrorism—and, indeed, to punish those who perpetrate it—but to prevent it from happening in the first instance. If we have a system that is perceived, whether it in fact is or not, as prejudicial and impacting harshly, even sometimes deliberately, on one community, issues arise. Those of us old enough to remember the consequences of internment in Northern Ireland will realise that a community’s feeling of being discriminated against can be a recruiting sergeant rather than the method of preventing such recruitment.

--- Later in debate ---
I ask the Minister to reflect on that. The issue has probably come about because those drafting the Bill were not cognisant of the Scottish legal system or the sentencing policies in Scotland. If the order for lifelong restriction, which we think gives advantages to a court and those who monitor, were brought on board and made available as an opportunity, we, as the party of government in Scotland, and those in the judiciary and the prison and legal services in Scotland, would view that as appropriate for our particular circumstances.
Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Member for East Lothian for his constructive comments at the beginning of his speech. As the shadow Minister said, in many respects the work on the Bill demonstrates Parliament and public life at its best, as we work together to protect our fellow citizens throughout the whole United Kingdom. Protecting our fellow citizens from violent attack is, thankfully, a principle on which we all agree, regardless of our differences on various other topics that often come before us. I am grateful for the constructive approach of the hon. Member for East Lothian, accepting, of course, that he wishes to discuss further points in due course, a few of which he mentioned.

There is clearly a question about how this legislation interacts with the order for lifelong restriction, which is applicable in Scotland. Indeed, the sentence that a Scottish court might hand down in the absence of this legislation could conceivably be longer—lifelong, as the name implies—than the period required by this legislation. The Government essentially accept the principle that there is an interaction that requires further work, and—let me be clear—further amendment.

On the detail of how the interaction will work best, discussions are ongoing between Ministry of Justice officials and officials in the Justice Directorate in Scotland about the technicalities. For example, although the clause as it is drafted would make it possible for an OLR to be imposed and, therefore, a lifelong restriction to be in place, we would lose the 14-year minimum sentence. What we would like to try to achieve technically is an amendment that preserves the concept of the 14-year minimum, but allows the lifelong restrictions to apply thereafter if a Scottish judge sees fit.

Those technical discussions are taking place. If the hon. Member for East Lothian or his colleague, the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West, wish to participate in those technical discussions, they are welcome to do so.

The fact that we would lose the 14-year minimum is problematic, but I accept the principle that an amendment is needed. If we can put such an amendment together quickly enough, we will be happy to bring it forward, in consultation with the hon. Gentleman, on Report. If we cannot get it ready fast enough for that, perhaps their lordships will be kind enough to consider making an appropriate amendment down at their end of the building.

I hope that my comments illustrate that I recognise the validity and the reasonableness of the point being raised. I hope that we can find a way to amend the Bill to preserve the 14-year minimum but not take away any ability that Scottish judges currently have to impose longer restrictions, should they see fit.

Kenny MacAskill Portrait Kenny MacAskill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am happy to accept that parliamentary drafting has its complexities; it is a skill way beyond my level of competence, but I appreciate the difficulties that go with it. I am happy to accept the undertaking given by the Minister, so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 6 has the same operative effect as clause 5 has in relation to England and Wales.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 6 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 4 agreed to.

Clause 7

Serious terrorism sentence: Northern Ireland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendment 31.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 7 and associated Government amendment 31 essentially do all the things we have just debated in relation to England, Wales and Scotland, but apply to Northern Ireland. The Government amendment is to ensure that we interact with Northern Irish sentencing law in a consistent way. It is rather the same issue that we debated a moment ago in relation to Scotland, where similar thinking clearly needs to be developed a little further. Government amendment 31 makes, I think, five technical changes to ensure that the measures that we have already debated apply consistently and coherently in Northern Ireland.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 7 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 8

Reduction in appropriate custodial term for guilty pleas: England and Wales

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 8 relates to a reduction to the minimum custodial term for a serious terrorist sentence where the offender makes a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity. Ordinarily, when such a guilty plea is entered for most offences—not quite all, but most—a discount of up to 33% of the sentence is possible. However, reflecting the very serious nature of the offences we are debating, the clause limits the discount for an early guilty plea to 20% of the custodial term. By way of illustration, if a 14-year minimum were imposed—it could be more, of course—the reduction could be to 11 years and 73 days, but no less. Practically, that is implemented by inserting a new subsection into section 73 of the sentencing code.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 8 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9

Reduction in appropriate custodial term for guilty pleas: Scotland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 9 has the same effect as the one we have just discussed, but in relation to Scotland.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 9 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 10

Reduction in appropriate custodial term for assistance to prosecution: England and Wales

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 10 provides for the court to apply a reduction to the custodial term for a serious terrorist sentence in England and Wales from the 14-year minimum in cases where the offender assists the prosecution. It does so by inserting a new subsection into section 74 of the sentencing code. The subsection notes that nothing in the STS sentencing provisions affects the court’s ability or power to take into account the extent and nature of any assistance given to the prosecution.

In keeping with the approach to all other sentences, including other minimum sentences and mandatory life sentences, there is no maximum reduction rate in relation to the flexibility that I have just described. While we are determined to ensure that serious terrorists receive the appropriate penalties for their offending, it is also important to ensure that an incentive remains for guilty offenders to assist the prosecution with other cases it may be pursuing.

This is a well-established process within the sentencing procedure across the whole United Kingdom. It can, and indeed often does, play a pivotal role in helping our prosecutors and the police to secure guilty verdicts in other, often more significant, related cases where the defendants may be a higher risk to the public than those in the case under direct consideration. We think it appropriate to continue that judicial discretion in cases where defendants assist the prosecution and where that assistance may help to convict other, even more dangerous people.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 10 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Tom Pursglove.)

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill (Fifth sitting)

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
Committee stage & Committee Debate: 5th sitting: House of Commons
Thursday 2nd July 2020

(4 years ago)

Public Bill Committees
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 2 July 2020 - (2 Jul 2020)

This text is a record of ministerial contributions to a debate held as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 passage through Parliament.

In 1993, the House of Lords Pepper vs. Hart decision provided that statements made by Government Ministers may be taken as illustrative of legislative intent as to the interpretation of law.

This extract highlights statements made by Government Ministers along with contextual remarks by other members. The full debate can be read here

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady is right up to a point, but some of the people under discussion will not have been responsible for killing people. A lot of them are covered by the charge of plotting, and there is the new range of terrorist offences. The crimes to which she refers are already covered by legislation. People who commit such terrible crimes are already subject to a life sentence, so in this particular situation we are talking about a different category of people.

I was saying that we need to understand what these changes mean for offenders, the Prison Service and society. For example, does the necessary amount of specialist prison provision required to incarcerate these offenders actually exist? That is not just about the number of prison places; it is about having the expertise available to manage and engage these offenders. We heard a lot of evidence from Mark Fairhurst about the need for proper provision and the fact that, at the moment, we have only one centre to deal with these particular terrorists. We are supposed to have three such centres, but we do not yet know when the Government will come forward and tell us when the new centres will be up and running.

What are the Minister’s proposals for housing younger offenders? Again, we need the prison places, but we also need the support services. Do they already exist, or is he proposing to develop more of them? If he is going to develop more of them, when will they be available? Even in the next two or three years, based on the Minister’s numbers, perhaps 20 or 30 young people will need specialist accommodation. They need specialist support services. Where are those services coming from? They do not exist at the moment, as I hope that the Minister will acknowledge, so will he ensure that they will in future so that we can for and deal with these people appropriately? We must not have a situation in which younger offenders—albeit among the most serious ones, as described by the hon. Lady—end up in the adult prison system because there is nowhere else for them to go.

I would welcome a specific comment on the issue when the Minister responds. I know that he has some tidying-up amendments for later in the development of the Bill, but I want to understand specifically what will happen with younger offenders and whether it is possible that some of them will end up in the adult estate.

It should be clear to the Minister why he should not be shy about commissioning analysis better to understand the issues that we face. Everyone talks about the importance of data and making decisions based on evidence. The amendment provides the Minister with an opportunity to do just that, and the Opposition are pleased to offer the Minister our assistance.

Also, if the Minister had the analysis, it would be easy for him to demonstrate to the House that he had got his decisions right. When he faced challenges from the Opposition on the success or failure of his new measures, he would have the analysis at his fingertips. I know that, financially, the Justice Department is skint. It has suffered heavy cuts disproportionate to those for other Departments during the past 10 years or so, and we have seen the results of that. The latest figures show that the number of criminal cases yet to reach the courts has now exceeded half a million, with hundreds of thousands more tribunal cases also outstanding. Perhaps it is the lack of resources that has meant that the Lord Chancellor cannot crack on and plan Nightingale courts to go alongside the Nightingale hospitals—the money to do so simply is not available. He did write to me yesterday, telling me that some additional money will be available. But it is a very small amount of money compared with the challenge that the system faces. This Minister’s accepting the amendment might result in the use of some resources, but the right action in this respect could save considerable sums in the longer term, and as I have made clear, the Justice Department really needs the resources.

Our ask is simple. We believe that there are real benefits for the Government in carrying out the analysis described in the amendment. Let us have in Parliament the evidence suggesting that these measures are a necessity and actually keep the public safe. I hope that the Minister will take these points and accept that longer sentences do not necessarily reduce the risk of reoffending. Several of our witnesses made that clear and even suggested that minimum sentences may in fact be counterproductive. The Minister might be reluctant to adopt the amendment—I will be surprised if he is not—but I look to him to come up with answers to the real issues that it covers.

Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Philp)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Good morning. It is good to see you in the Chair again, Mr McCabe. Let me start by responding specifically to the amendment, and then I will try to pick up one or two of the more general points that the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Stockton North, raised in his speech.

Amendment 39 does not propose any very wide form of analysis, aspects of which the hon. Gentleman referred to. It in fact proposes a very specific form of analysis, which is an impact assessment on the effect of these minimum term orders on other offences. It asks us to do an analysis that says, “If we introduce a minimum 14-year term to be served by those with life sentences, what effect will it have on unrelated offences? What effect will the minimum terms have on unrelated offences in relation to non-terrorist crimes?” If I may respectfully say so, given that the Bill is about terrorist offences and nothing in the Bill has any impact at all on non-terrorist offences, I do not think that the analysis proposed by amendment 39 is particularly germane. The Bill will not make any difference at all to any other, non-terrorist offences, so I do not think that analysis would have any results or effect.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I appreciate the Minister giving way so early in his speech. The Bill creates a host of new offences, which will capture more people. It is important that he addresses the effect on other offences, which could all of a sudden become terrorism-related offences and therefore be subject to a very different sentencing decision by a judge in a court.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My reading of the term “other offences” in line 3 the hon. Gentleman’s amendment is offences not caught by the scope of the Bill.

Let me turn to the questions that the hon. Gentleman asked and the numbers he raised. We have published an impact assessment and equalities assessment, as we discussed at some length in the previous sitting. He asked where I got the numbers of younger offenders from. I now have some information about the under-18 cohort, which he and other Members are concerned about. Currently, there are only three terrorist offenders in prison under the age of 18. I hope that illustrates the very small numbers involved.

On the question of whether we are unreasonably widening the scope of what constitutes a terrorist offence, my judgment is that most terrorist offences would be caught under the existing list of terrorist offences. It would be relatively unusual for a terrorist act to be committed outside the current list of offences, and for it to be necessary to make the terrorist connection. It could happen, and we are rightly legislating for that, but the existing list of terrorist offences is relatively comprehensive, so I do not think that the scope increase that the hon. Gentleman is referring to will have a dramatic impact on what are already small numbers. It is of course important that we give the judge the opportunity—the power—to make that connection where somebody commits an offence not on the current list; it is logically conceivable that that could happen.

Let me turn to the number—the 50. We can extrapolate how many of those 50 are aged between 18 and 21, as we discussed in the previous sitting. I do not think that number is the annual flow or the number of convictions per year. As I understand it, it is the impact on the total prison population. Given that these sentences are quite long, one would expect that the annual flow into the system affected by these serious terrorism sentence provisions would be somewhat lower than that.

Those numbers illustrate powerfully that we are talking about an extremely small number of people. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford said in her well-pitched intervention, we are talking about people who have committed a serious terrorist offence and have been found to be dangerous—in other words, the judge thinks that they pose an ongoing, serious risk to the public. Their actions either caused or were likely to cause multiple deaths, and, in the context of clause 11, the judge views the offence as so serious that a life sentence is appropriate. I hope that gives the Committee a clear sense that these numbers are extremely small and, thankfully, particularly small in relation to young people. We should take this opportunity to pay tribute to the tremendous work that our counter-terror police and the security services do to keep those numbers so very small.

Other remarks were made about funding. That is probably outside the scope of the clause, but I will address it very briefly, if I may have your indulgence for one minute, Mr McCabe. I am sure that if I stretch the bounds of your indulgence, you will call me to order. Counter-terrorism funding rightly increased substantially earlier this year in response to the enhanced level of threat. Spending on Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service of course includes work on rehabilitation, and that also received a significant funding increase in the spending review in September 2019. I am sure that everyone here would welcome that increase in expenditure.

The shadow Minister mentioned a number of outstanding cases in the legal system. I think the number he quoted relates to magistrates courts. Of course we are in the middle of—hopefully coming towards the end of—a serious pandemic, which inhibited the operation of the courts system. Prior to the coronavirus epidemic, waiting times in the magistrates court were about eight weeks. The outstanding case load in the Crown court was certainly a great deal lower than it was in 2010. Obviously, coronavirus has caused an increase in the outstanding case load. We are working hard to address that with the new Nightingale courts. There are, I believe, 10 sites working on extending sitting hours. By the end of July every court in the country will be back up and running, and we are rolling out the cloud video platform, so that hearings can take place by video. I commend to the Committee the court recovery plan that was published two or three days ago. I hope that that demonstrates the herculean national effort currently under way to reduce the outstanding case load that has built up during the coronavirus epidemic.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I most certainly welcome the increased expenditure in the area in question. It is essential that the Government look to increasing it further, because there is no doubt, from the evidence the Committee received, that the system is not adequate to receive the people who will be caught up in the range of new laws. It was good to hear the Minister try to clarify some of the numbers. The figure of only three people aged under 18 is significant. However, according to the analysis, there would be up to 50 people a year, over a long period. Does the Minister want to correct me?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will double check that number, but my understanding, which I will check, is that as a consequence of the measures the total prison population will increase by 50, which is different from an extra 50 people extra flowing in each year. However, I will come back to the hon. Gentleman on that.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I appreciate that, but I thought I read it was 50 per year. I may of course be mistaken, but I look forward to the Minister clarifying that.

If the vast majority of criminal offences are committed under existing legislation, I wonder why we are here, other than to increase the determinate sentence to 14 years. Perhaps in a later speech the Minister will return to the matter. We may well return to it in future, but for the moment, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 11 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 12

Minimum punishment part for serious terrorism offenders: Scotland

Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This clause has the same effect as the previous clause, which applied to England and Wales. This applies to Scotland, and will have effect by inserting a new section 205ZB into the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 12 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 13

Minimum tariff for serious terrorism offenders given life sentences: Northern Ireland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 13 has the same effect as the previous two clauses, except in relation to Northern Ireland. It will amend the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order 2001.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 13 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 14

Minimum custodial period for serious terrorism offenders given indeterminate custodial sentences: Northern Ireland

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 14 also relates to Northern Ireland. In this case, it applies to Northern Irish offenders who receive an indeterminate custodial sentence, ensuring that the 14-year minimum custodial period applies to them as well. The clause will have effect by amending article 13 of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 2008.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 14 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 15

Additional offences attracting extended sentence: England and Wales

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This clause sets out a number of offences that, from the commencement date of this provision, will be included in the list of offences eligible for receiving an extended determinate sentence in England and Wales. Adding these offences will ensure that the sentencing regime in England and Wales is consistent in the type of offences it considers serious enough to be eligible for an extended determinate sentence. To make this change, the clause adds the offences specified within the provisions to part 1 of schedule 18 of the sentencing code. These offences all carry a maximum penalty of life, and include the making of explosives, developing biological weapons, endangering the safety of aircraft, using nuclear materials and hijacking or destroying ships. As such, they are of comparable seriousness to other offences already in scope for the extended sentence. Adding these offences to the list will correct the anomaly created by their omission and will ensure that these serious offences and others are eligible for an extended sentence as well.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 15 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 16

Increase in extension period for serious terrorism offenders aged under 18: England and Wales

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move amendment 40, in clause 16, page 16, line 29, at end insert—

“(4) Section 255 of the Sentencing Code is amended as follows.

(5) After subsection (2) insert—

“(3) The pre-sentence report must in the case of a serious terrorism offence under section 256(4)(b)(iii)—

(a) take account of the offender’s age;

(b) consider whether options other than an extension period of eight to ten years might be more effective at—

(i) reducing the risk of serious harm to members of the public, or

(ii) rehabilitating the offender.

(4) The court must take account of any points made by the pre-sentence report in relation to the matters in subsection (3).”

(6) The Secretary of State must at least once a year conduct and lay before Parliament a review of the effectiveness of the provisions of this section and their impact upon offenders.

(7) The report of the first review must be laid before Parliament within one year of this Act being passed.”.

--- Later in debate ---
Not all offenders are the same and extension is necessary for some; for others it could have a negative impact. I hope the Minister will accept my point that we need to respond appropriately to the individual circumstances of a young offender and seek the just way through, not just the easy way.
Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I must say, the shadow Minister has painted for me a truly horrifying picture, namely membership of the Liberal Democrats followed by crushing defeat at a general election. Let that be a lesson to anyone who, like my former hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey, considers anything so foolish as a move to the Liberal Democrats. Looking around this Committee, that is something we can all agree on.

The first question raised by these amendments is whether there is an option for an extension period other than eight to 10 years. I am looking at amendment 40 to clause 16(3)(b). The way the legislation is currently drafted allows the judge the discretion to choose the extension period—the licence period—of anything between one and 10 years. All that these clauses do is increase the maximum from eight years—as it is now—to 10 years, but that is not mandatory; the judge can choose to have an extension period as low as one year. The choice for judicial discretion that the shadow Minister is calling for already exists without the amendment. Instead of the choice being between one and eight years, as it is now, the choice will become between one and 10 years, as we propose, but judicial discretion will still exist.

The pre-sentence report that the amendment calls for will exist already. There is always a pre-sentence report for offences of this nature. In deciding what length of extension period is appropriate, the judge will already have due regard to that pre-sentence report. They will also have due regard to that pre-sentence report in making their finding, or otherwise, of dangerousness.

On the question of a review of how things are going, I certainly do not fear any sort of review after the event. We have a standing procedure that legislation should be reviewed after—I think, typically—three years, to see how it is functioning. I would expect this legislation, as other legislation, to be subject to that same scrutiny process. I am sure that no one in the House would be shy to propose changes if, in due course, anything appeared to be amiss.

On that basis, in particular the first two points—

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I realised that the Minister was getting to the point at which he would sit down, but I asked specifically for him to address the issue of how young people who have committed this type of offence will be accommodated on the estate. Can the fears expressed by many individuals be properly addressed?

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Such young people will not move on to the adult prison estate until they turn 21, so that immediately provides some reassurance, I hope. The more general point that the shadow Minister makes, and has made before—and our witnesses made—is on the importance of rehabilitation. They are points well made. We should not simply lock people up and throw away the key; even with such serious offenders, who will rightly spend a great deal of time in prison, we should work on rehabilitation.

Part of the additional resources announced in the September 2019 spending review and this year’s March Budget will go to Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service. I have spoken to the Prisons and Probation Minister about young people, an issue that my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury has also raised with me, and it is an area where effort, focus and attention are being paid, and will be further in future. That point about rehabilitation is well made, but it is being addressed. I am sure it is a topic that Members will return to. I have forgotten whether this is an intervention or a speech, but on that basis, I politely and respectfully ask the shadow Minister to withdraw the amendments.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is lovely to have a guarantee from the Minister that no young person will end up in the adult estate—

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

While under the age of 21.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister qualifies that by saying “under the age of 21”. I appreciate that, and I assume that the word “guarantee” can be applied in this particular circumstance, despite the fact that some of our witnesses were concerned that we do not have sufficient facilities within the system to house 18 to 21-year-olds and some even younger than that.

In an earlier debate, I believe on Tuesday, the Minister appeared to accept that the pre-sentence report regime could be improved. In fact, he made a commitment to speak to his colleagues in the Home Office, to see whether they might find ways to ensure that the pre-sentence report covers some of the issues that I raised in Committee. We have not heard from the Minister about that, but perhaps in a later speech we will.