Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

Read Full debate
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 21st September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 View all Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 21 July 2020 - large font accessible version - (21 Jul 2020)
Moved by
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That the Bill be now read a second time.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this Second Reading debate on what has been widely acknowledged as an incredibly important Bill. I join other noble Lords in welcoming, on “the worst list since the lavender list”, my noble friend Lord Vaizey and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. It struck me that one person’s success is another’s disappointment, because I wanted the Diamond synchrotron to go in the north-west. It obviously ended up near Oxford, but it was very good listening to my noble friend.

The right reverend Prelate recounted the dreadful night of the arena bomb in Manchester. I reflected on his feelings about how Manchester came together after that; it really did. He talked about the bee; I carry the bee around on my lanyard at all times. It certainly defined a moment in Manchester’s history that will never be forgotten.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, talked about the rise of the far right, and of course we cannot forget about that; it really is on the rise in this country. Just as we talk about Islamist terrorism, we cannot forget about that. I also say to my noble friend Lord Sheikh that I will respond to his letter as soon as I possibly can; I apologise to him. I also apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, because at times, unless I am going deaf, I could not hear her very well. I shall look at Hansard and respond to her in due course if necessary.

Noble Lords including the noble Lords, Lord Ramsbotham and Lord Thomas of Gresford, the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier, talked about the new serious terrorism sentence with a 14-year minimum. Of course, the sentence will be for the courts to impose on the most serious and dangerous terrorist offenders who would otherwise receive a life sentence—those who have committed an offence involving a high likelihood of causing multiple deaths. It is right that we set a minimum that reflects the seriousness with which we take these offences. By having both a minimum custodial sentence of 14 years and a minimum licence period of seven years, and up to 25 years, we will keep the public safer by ensuring that dangerous terrorists serve longer in prison and are subject to longer periods of supervision and monitoring in the community.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, talked about the discount sentence. While the maximum reduction for a plea at the first reasonable opportunity is 33%, the position in sentencing law is different for offences that carry a mandatory minimum sentence. By applying a maximum reduction of 20% for an early guilty plea in the case of serious terrorism sentences, we are taking an approach consistent with the provision for other minimum sentences, such as those for firearms offences and third-strike burglary.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, questioned the evidence used to determine that longer sentences deter radicalisation. The rationale for this Bill is primarily about public protection, as noble Lords have said. Longer sentences and more onerous licenses are part of a package intended to ensure that offenders who commit serious terrorist acts are incapacitated for longer and better supervised on release. Longer sentences will provide both better protection for the public, by incapacitating terrorist offenders, and more time to support their disengagement and rehabilitation through the range of tailored interventions available while they are in prison.

The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, asked me for an update on the announcement of additional funding for CT probation prison programmes, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, alluded to this too. We are doubling CT specialist staff and dedicating resources to provide enhanced training to identify and challenge extremist behaviour. The National Probation Service has already developed specialist teams for the management of terrorist offenders, but the additional investment we are making will take this further and recruitment is already under way. These specialist, trained probation officers will be able to deliver enhanced levels of offender management for those high-risk, complex cases.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, asked for the estimate of additional probation expenditure. There are three effects on probation case loads that contribute to the additional costs expected. The first is the serious terrorists, and terrorism-related offenders, likely to receive an extended sentence. They would either face a 14-year minimum term, or be required to serve all of their sentence in custody, in steady state, and this may result in fewer than 50 additional probation case loads, at a cost of less than £100,000 annually. The second is expanding the sentence for offenders of particular concern regime to cover more offences. This would increase probation case loads by fewer than 50 offences at a cost of about £100,000 annually. The third, adding polygraph testing to certain offenders’ license conditions, would affect fewer than 150 offenders at a cost of about £400,000 annually in steady state. This totals an estimate of additional £600,000 annual cost for probation in steady state.

The noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Ponsonby, have asked what HMG are doing to ensure that the Parole Board has the resources, training and so on to improve decision-making capability. The board has a cohort of specialist members, trained specifically to deal with terrorist and extremist cases, including retired high court judges, retired police officers and other experts in their field. We continue to work with the board, the police and security services to ensure that the parole system as a whole is fully equipped to deal effectively with these cases.

The noble Lords, Lord Ramsbotham, Lord Anderson and Lord Carlisle, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, and the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, lamented the removal of the Parole Board referral for serious terrorists. Dangerous terrorist offenders should serve a sentence that truly reflects the seriousness of their crimes. Removing the prospect of early release for these offenders sends a clear message that this Government will treat this kind of offence seriously. By ensuring that they will spend longer in custody, our Prison Service will have more time to manage and reduce the risk that these offenders present to the public when they are released from prison. Prison governors and HMPPS public protection casework officials have extensive experience in setting licence conditions for terrorist offenders on behalf of the Secretary of State, and will continue to be informed by the recommendations of probation officers and the multi-agency public protection panels in place to ensure their safe and effective risk management on release into the community.

My noble friend Lord Vaizey, the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester all talked about the vulnerability of children. Noble Lords will know that we have a separate youth justice system for children and the courts will always consider their specific needs when sentencing. However, we know that age is not a barrier to becoming involved in terrorist acts. That is why we have taken steps to ensure a degree of consistency between our approach to adult and youth offenders. The changes we are introducing to the EDS will remove the possibility of early release for the most dangerous offenders, allowing for the effective monitoring of risk factors over a longer period to limit the threat posed on release. The special sentence for offenders of particular concern will ensure that children who commit a relevant terrorist or terrorism-related offence cannot be released without a period of supervision in the community, maximising the time available to support their desistance from further offending.

My noble friend Lord Vaizey, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and, to a certain extent, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester talked about the malign influence on children vulnerable to exploitation by adults—particularly, as my noble friend Lord Vaizey said, online. That is why 47% of the projects that the Government funded in 2018-19 worked in partnership with communities to reduce the risk of radicalisation. They were delivered in schools to increase young people’s resilience to terrorists and extremist ideology in all its forms.

My noble friend Lord Vaizey talked about the online harms White Paper. Like him, I am looking forward to it becoming a Bill, and some of the problems that it will tackle, particularly online, for children and young people.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, talked about Northern Ireland and a possible separate sentencing approach. We think there should be a unified approach to the sentencing and release of terrorist offenders across the UK. We do not discriminate between types of terrorism. Any terrorist offender, regardless of their ideology or proclaimed motivation, and whether their offence was committed in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, should be subject to the same sentencing and release regime.

There has been much discussion of the standard of proof. We are reducing the standard of proof from “on the balance of probabilities” to “reasonable grounds for suspecting” to support the use of TPIMs as necessary and proportionate to protect the public from terrorism-related activity. Only last year, Parliament took the step of updating the counterterrorism legislative frame- work through the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act, because pathways into terrorism have changed and, in some cases, accelerated. Much radicalisation now takes place online, as my noble friend Lord Vaizey said, and the operational pace for the Security Service and police is faster than ever seen before. Lowering the standard of proof will help to ensure that a TPIM can be considered as an option to manage the threat in a wider range of cases, where it is necessary to do so. For example, this change will assist in circumstances where an individual has been to Syria to fight for or assist a terrorist organisation but evidence of their activities there is hard to gather. Should they return, prosecution is the Government’s strongest preference. However, if there are evidential difficulties and the burden of proof required by a criminal court—beyond reasonable doubt—cannot be satisfied but there is a reasonable suspicion that they have been involved in terrorism-related activity, lowering the standard of proof will ensure that a TPIM can be considered as a risk-management tool to protect the public.

Noble Lords will, rightly, want to debate where the balance between civil liberties and public protection best lies. However, the Government are clear: we must ensure that the Security Service and Counter Terrorism Policing can make full use of the tools available to them to manage the risk posed by those involved in terrorism.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, asked about the removal of the two-year time limit. The Government have no desire to keep individuals on a TPIM any longer than is necessary and proportionate to protect the public. This change will ensure that, when subjects pose an enduring risk, we will be better placed to restrict and prevent their involvement in terrorism-related activity for as long as necessary. This provision mitigates against the possibility of TPIM subjects “riding out” the current maximum of two years with no change to their extremist mindset, and it removes the prospect of a cliff edge being created whereby a TPIM is removed but the subject of the TPIM represents an enduring risk.

In cases of well-connected extremists, it will also multiply the benefits of the TPIM by reducing individuals’ capability of conducting terrorism-related activity, dismantling their networks so that they are ineffective at inspiring and influencing others to commit acts of terrorism, and reducing the wider long-term threat from others who might have been influenced by the subject were it not for the TPIM measures. This change will also assist with longer-term risk management, providing more time to meaningfully pursue deradicalisation and space for subjects to adopt different lifestyles and move away from their previous extremist contacts.

As is the case now, recommendations as to who should be subject to a TPIM will be provided by operational partners in the first instance and will therefore be underpinned by suitable operational experience and expertise. Where we cannot prosecute, deport or otherwise manage an individual of terrorism concern, a TPIM will be considered, if necessary, as a means to protect the public. I am confident that the changes that the Bill will make will strengthen the toolkit available to our operational partners, while continuing to ensure that robust safeguards remain in place to protect the civil liberties of those subject to the measure.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, asked me to cite examples, and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asserted that there has not been an occasion where security services which wanted to use TPIMs could not do so. That was cited in the House of Commons and it is true, but the Bill provides, as it should do, for future situations that could well arise, as my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier said. As I am sure noble Lords will know, the tests include not just the “reasonable suspicion” test but the following: that some or all activity is new terrorism-related activity; that the Home Secretary reasonably considers that a TPIM is necessary; and that the Home Secretary reasonably considers each TPIM measure to be necessary. In addition, the court must give the Home Secretary permission to impose a TPIM. Therefore, the decision is not based solely on that one test.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, asked for the Government’s view on the amendment proposed by PCC David Jamieson that would give PCCs and local mayors an oversight role in the operation of TPIMs. The Home Office already works very closely with the police before a TPIM is imposed and during its lifetime. The process ensures that TPIMs are imposed only following engagement with the relevant local police force and that community impact assessments are kept up to date. The Bill already contains a clause that will allow a TPIM subject’s relocation measure to be varied where necessary on operational resource grounds. Therefore, David Jamieson’s proposed amendment for an additional role for PCCs and local mayors in TPIM processes is, respectfully, not necessary.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who of course has great experience in this area, cited radicalisation in prisons and gave the example of Usman Khan, but he will know that I will not go into that individual’s case. My noble friends Lord Vaizey and Lord Risby, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick—and, by turn, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile—questioned the success of rehabilitation programmes in prisons. HMPPS delivers a formal programme—the Healthy Identity Intervention —in custody and in the community. In addition, the prison strand of the Desistance and Disengagement Programme was rolled out to prisons in 2018. The DDP provides a range of intensive, tailored interventions and practical support designed to help in rehabilitation.

Measuring changes in behaviour is obviously and notoriously hard, especially in such a small cohort relative to the size of the prison and probation population in England and Wales. Our intervention programmes have a robust research and evaluation mechanism built into them. Evaluation and research will be at the heart of the new CT assessment and rehabilitation centre announced by the Government earlier this year.

In terms of scrutinising the effectiveness of disengagement, we have consistently evaluated the effectiveness of our work and have taken action where appropriate. The department regularly reviews its approach to make sure that it is appropriate and proportionate to the risk presented by terrorist prisoners and people on licence. This will be a core mission for the new CT assessment and rehabilitation centre, which will lead the evaluation, development and delivery of our intervention approaches. In addition, the independent reviewer of Prevent—on which more later—will consider the work of the desistance and disengagement programme.

The noble Lord, Lord Mann, talked about the CST and other voluntary organisations that have been very successful in identifying people who wish to do harm to our communities. I absolutely pay tribute to the CST. I have seen its work in action and have seen how it has worked with other organisations, such as Tell MAMA. It is also involved in countering hate crime towards the LGBT community. I hope that its work goes on for many more years to come.

On terrorist offenders leaving prison, as noble Lords have alluded to, throughout a sentence we oversee multiagency end-to-end supervision, which includes regular risk assessments. All terrorist offenders released on probation are closely managed by the National Probation Service, and the highest-risk offenders, including terrorist offenders, are managed through the multiagency public protection arrangements—MAPPA.

I am aware of time; I hope that noble Lords will bear with me for a couple more minutes. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, asked about women’s de-radicalisation programmes. She will know that all convicted terrorist prisoners, including at the small number of women’s prisons, can access the rehabilitative interventions. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, asked me about the Acheson recommendations. In our 2016 response to the Acheson report, the Government accepted eight out of the 11 principal recommendations. Following the Fishmongers’ Hall terrorist attack, the MoJ Permanent Secretary commissioned an urgent review of progress against these recommendations. The review found that the department has delivered against all the recommendations that the Government accepted. This progress includes the establishment of separation centres to hold the most subversive extremist prisoners and to safeguard the vulnerable against their malicious ideology.

Over 29,000 prison staff, including all new recruits since January 2017, have received enhanced extremist awareness training. Arrangements are also in place to systematically remove extremist literature from prisons, and enhanced vetting arrangements for prison chaplains of all faiths are also now in place. Through the CT “step up” programme, the department will continue to build on this track record with increased resource and reform across these important areas.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked where we are up to with the MAPPA review. He will know that the terms of reference were published in January 2020 and that Jonathan Hall’s report was published on 2 September. He found that it

“is a well-established process and did not conclude that wholesale change is necessary.”

He made a number of recommendations; we will set out more about our response in due course.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, challenged me about who Prevent is protecting. It is protecting the individual who needs to be safeguarded against being radicalised into terrorism. It is also protecting the people that might be harmed, both the individual and those around him or her. On the review, given both the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, having to stand down and how Covid has come to try us this year in respect of the work we can do, an incomplete or rushed review might well have been produced had we not removed the deadline through this Bill. The interviews are taking place later this month and will be followed by an announcement as soon as possible. The Government want the review to conclude by August 2021, but we do not want to constrain the reviewer’s ability to complete a comprehensive assessment, given the uncertainties associated with the current circumstances. Confirmation of the timescales will be agreed with the new reviewer and set out in the terms of reference.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, asked whether Parliament will consider revised Prevent terms of reference. The answer is no. There were also a couple of questions on polygraph testing; if noble Lords are amenable, I will respond to those in a letter as I have gone well over my allocated time. With that, I beg to move.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.