All 2 Lord Faulks contributions to the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill 2019-21

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Tue 26th Jan 2021
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
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Tue 9th Feb 2021
Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill
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Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

Lord Faulks Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 26th January 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD) [V]
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My Lords, my name is to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. It would have been added to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, but I was caught out by the speed at which we suddenly arrived at these proceedings. I appreciate that there are differences between the amendments, including the time period for review, and the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, is not confined to prisoners sentenced under Part 1. In particular, there is the criteria for assessment to which the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, referred.

Like others, I have been struck by Ian Acheson’s work. One of the many things that he has said that has been quoted widely is that:

“We cannot speak to dead terrorists. We can speak for dead victims. They demand that policymakers take risks to ensure that the people who wish to harm us through a corrupt ideology are engaged, not shunned. This should happen not because states are weak, but because they are confident the strength of their values will ultimately prevail.”


He has, of course, described prisons as incubators of radical behaviour. They are incubators of crime of all sorts: Islamic extremism, right-wing extremism, drug crime and other organised crime. Are there hothouses within the incubators? Given that resources are not infinite, what is the best balance between work in prison and work in the community? To pick up a point made earlier this afternoon, I do not regard the rights of offenders versus the public as being the issue; both are about effective means of achieving the safety of the public.

Programmes must be assessed and, no doubt, evaluation and adaptation is not a one-off but a continuing process. All this has a context: the conditions in our prisons. That is hardly a novel point. How suitable are those places for rehabilitation? How well trained are staff? Do they have the capacity to spot the signs of how prisoners are affected by other prisoners and by their experience of imprisonment?



I have not seen mention, though I am sure it has been addressed, of the recruitment of staff from Muslim communities, who may be alert to what non-Muslims would not see. In the interests of balance, I should refer—although I am not sure how—to those who might be thought of, in a prejudiced, caricatured way, as having right-wing sympathies. I am not sure how you would do that, but I want to make it clear that this is not a single issue.

If terrorists are segregated from the rest of the prison population, does that reinforce their beliefs and attitudes? Is there a cumulative experience? What if the terrorism is rooted in different, opposing ideologies? What are the vulnerabilities of prisoners to becoming radicalised? How different is that process from being drawn further into, say, drugs crime or other violent crime? Indeed, may it not require more sophistication and knowledge to draw someone into Islamist extremism, which, as I understand it—others will know much more about it—involves much teaching and studying of the Koran?

None of this can be separated from what goes on outside prison, including when a prisoner is on licence. The skills required by the probation service are considerable, especially in the face of what I understand to be increasing sophistication on the part of prisoners on licence regarding how to game the system—the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, may have referred obliquely to that. I cannot begin to answer my questions, and there are not nearly enough of them, but this is the moment to ask them.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, I join other noble Lords in welcoming my noble friend Lord Wolfson to his position. I can say from experience that it is a challenging but rewarding post.

It is well understood that deradicalisation programmes are particularly challenging to evaluate. There is nothing new about this. I remember attending meetings in Brussels to discuss with my fellow Justice Ministers the problem of radicalisation in prison and the best response to it. There was no real agreement on that but my clear impression was that in 2015, we were already adopting a much more sophisticated approach to the problem than were other countries within the European Union. This is not some tedious pro-Brexit point: the whole purpose of our meeting was to try to share intelligence and work out the best response. However, even the most enthusiastic supporter of the various deradicalisation initiatives would acknowledge the difficulty of assessing their success or otherwise.

As I understand it, there are already a number of programmes deployed in prisons that are targeted at terrorist offenders, and I expect the Minister to tell us a great deal more about them. I have read what Jonathan Hall said about what are, effectively, offences that are committed in prison by the radicalisation of prisoners by other prisoners. This may well have happened in the case of the murder of three men in Forbury Gardens in Reading, which many noble Lords will remember all too clearly.

In 2016, Ian Acheson made a number of recommendations. A number of noble Lords have said that little progress has been made. I await the Minister’s comments on that, but I understood that quite a few initiatives had been taken, including training officers to spot signs of extremism and increasing the number of staff with specific counter-terrorism experience or knowledge.

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Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord McNicol of West Kilbride) (Lab)
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We have been unable to reach the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, so we now move to the noble Lord, Lord Faulks.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, the Bill has been broadly welcomed, in light of the Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham attacks, by noble Lords across the House. One could add to that sad litany of attacks the murder of three men in Forbury Gardens, Reading. Noble Lords accepted the need for legislation such as this with something of a heavy heart. There have been anxieties expressed in Committee today and at Second Reading about some aspects of the Bill. I particularly noted the comments at Second Reading of the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, who described himself as “horrified” by the reduced role of the Parole Board.

I share, I am sure, with all noble Lords very considerable respect for what the Parole Board does. Decisions about serious offenders are particularly challenging. The boards, which have enormous experience, are given a great deal of material to make their decision, which they do with scrupulous care. I do not see that the purpose of the Bill in any way excludes or marginalises the board. The purpose, surely, is to ensure that serious terrorist offenders spend longer in prison and longer on licence, and it is that fact that removes the Parole Board from the picture, not any lack of respect for what it does.

I listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, said about the statistics on reoffending by terrorist offenders who are released, and I am sure that he is absolutely right to make that point. I would add just one gentle caveat, in the sense that a terrorist who commits another offence, maybe of the most extraordinary gravity, is not comparable to, say, a burglar who breaks into a house repeatedly, serious though that can be.

The offenders who will no longer be susceptible to review by the Parole Board will have their licence condition, when they are released, set by prison governors on behalf of the Secretary of State. As I understand their position, prison governors will be informed by the probation service, the multi-agency public protection panels, and presumably by information gathered about the prisoners in the prison or prisons where they have served their sentence, which will be something of an incentive for them to behave well. Prison governors have much experience of this process.

The Bill is certainly concerned with the protection of the public. Keeping the most serious offenders in prison for longer and removing their opportunity for early release is what causes the reduced role of the Parole Board. The removal of its involvement for what I understand is likely to be a very small cohort of 50 or so—perhaps the Minister can help—seems to be justified in the public interest.

Lord Carlile of Berriew Portrait Lord Carlile of Berriew (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, that we are dealing with the determination of licence conditions in the context of terrorist prisoners having been sentenced to longer sentences. However, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Prashar, who has very considerable and relevant experience, and with my noble friend Lord Anderson of Ipswich that the Parole Board has an important potential role to play in these cases.

It is said that the determination of licence conditions can adequately be dealt with by prison governors. That may be true in some cases, but prison governors do not have the range of expertise, the judicial discipline and the clear legal accountability of the Parole Board. It is therefore my view that this task should be undertaken by the Parole Board, which has all the relevant qualifications to do it. If the Parole Board was placed in that position it would command the confidence of the public. Indeed, those who believe that too much control is being taken of prisoners by government would be able to see that there was a thoroughly independent, accountable, quasi-judicial organisation dealing with these cases empirically and on their merits.

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill

Lord Faulks Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 9th February 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I appreciate that the Committee dealt with some clauses regarding polygraphs on the previous day in Committee, to the extent of filleting the Bill so that certain provisions do not extend beyond England and Wales. I apologise to the Committee that I did not retrieve Amendments 19A and 19B, which were tabled at that time. I shall save my more general remarks about polygraphs for the next grouping, as this is a narrow point.

Section 30 of the Offender Management Act excludes the use of two matters as evidence in any proceedings against a released person. Those matters are physiological reactions and a statement made during participation in a polygraph session. The amendment would make it clear that those matters could not be used as evidence in proceedings against a third party, its purpose being to ask whether that is now the case. When dealing with terrorism offences, there must be a lot of interest in the contacts of individuals—and, perhaps, a lot of interest in finding evidence that can be used against those other people.

I was very grateful for the teach-in arranged by the MoJ on how these sessions are currently run for sex offenders. During that briefing, it was explained to us that the sessions are not fishing or trawling for information; they are not wide-ranging discussions to see what an offender might let slip. They use closed questions, to which the answer will primarily be yes or no. It seems to me that some questions can lend themselves to inquiries about situations which may be relevant to other persons: for instance, “Since our last session, have you had any contact with, direct or indirect, or any news of X?” or “Has your wife had any news of X’s family?” My amendment is to probe whether the answers can be used in evidence against X. I beg to move.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, I regard this group and the next as essentially probing the Government on the use of polygraphs in relation to those convicted of serious terrorism offences. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I attended the briefing last week, during which the potential use of polygraphs was explained; I also found it useful. As I understand it, polygraphs will be a tool—not instead of anything else—to assist in monitoring by the National Probation Service of offenders who have been convicted of serious terrorist offences and are considered at high risk of causing further serious harm.

I need a little convincing that their use in monitoring sexual offenders is really a terribly useful precedent for the challenge presented by serious terrorist offenders, who often have particular ideological convictions which may make detecting lies or inconsistences rather a different challenge from serious sexual offenders, although I understand that polygraphs have been used by the National Probation Service since about 2013.

I suspect piloting may not be particularly easy, given the numbers involved. We all know from the terrible events following, for example, what happened at Fishmongers’ Hall how challenging it is to assess whether someone has been successfully rehabilitated or not. During the last group, the noble Lord, Lord Marks, stressed how important it was for there to be “effective deradicalisation”. I am sure all noble Lords agree that is a desirable aim, but it is something of a holy grail. As we discussed in Committee last week, effective deradicalisation has been a significant challenge for those responsible for managing offenders, not just in this country but in many others where Islamic terrorists and other extremists have presented problems.

I understand the primary purpose of this Bill to be protecting the public from the very serious consequences of offences committed by these offenders. That does not preclude the possibility of rehabilitation, but I think the balance in the public’s view is very much in favour of protecting them.

I understand that there will be an internal review of this polygraph testing—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stewart, said so in response to a previous group—and that it is considered that it may involve something like 150 offenders, a relatively small cohort. He also said the responsibility for these offenders might, as I understand it, eventually be transferred to a specialist branch of the National Probation Service—the NSD. Experience of handling terrorist offenders in particular would certainly be desirable.

Although I look forward to the Minister’s response, this process of assessing how best to assist in monitoring serious offenders seems very challenging. Those with that responsibility need all the help they can get, given the difficulties they will encounter. At the moment, I see considerable advantage in using these polygraphs.

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Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Portrait Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (CB) [V]
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, spoke with such eloquence in making all the points that I can confine myself to making four short points.

First, as he rightly stressed, this is an important part of the conditions for TPIMs because it enables a judge and the Home Secretary, when making the decision, to concentrate on the factual evidence in relation to terrorist activity. The other conditions are more difficult to establish, or it might be more a question of judgment, but this at least concentrates on the facts.

Secondly, the amendment seeks what some may feel is an overgenerous compromise. I do not think so; I think that it is right to say that, for the first and initial period, a lower standard can be acceptable.

However, thirdly, that cannot be acceptable when one is looking at longer periods where a person’s liberty is to be constrained—particularly with the amendment that we will come to next, which concerns the indefinite detention period.

Fourthly, and finally, it seems to me that there can be no justification for making such a change unless there is evidence. Indeed, what was said about the position in the other place has been clearly set out.

I ask the Minister to set out fully what he believes is the evidence for this change. If he cannot do so in public on this occasion, there must be a means of informing those who are interested in this matter of the evidence so that it can be carefully reviewed before we impose on people accused of obviously very serious issues a standard of proof that really is completely unacceptable in any civilised society.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, has given your Lordships a very clear and succinct history of control orders and TPIMs—as one would expect, given his experience. He pointed out very fairly that control orders had the very same test that it is now proposed in the Bill should be used to decide whether a TPIM is appropriate. It is also worth pointing out that control orders were highly controversial and subject to a considerable number of challenges in the courts to see whether they survived a proper challenge based on the European Court of Human Rights and the convention. They survived that, which will reassure your Lordships.

I accept that the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, which is supported by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, is relatively modest, and I understand the reasoning for it, whereas the amendment put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, goes rather further and seems to involve a degree of subjectivity—although I will listen with interest to what he says—and that subjectivity might be difficult to satisfy.