Tougher sentences, an end to early release and a major review of the management of convicted terrorists are among a raft of measures in the U.K.’s overhaul of terrorism response.
Confirmed by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC on January 21, the new Counter-Terrorism Bill, will force dangerous terrorist offenders who receive extended determinate sentences to serve the whole time behind bars and ensure those convicted of serious offenses such as preparing acts of terrorism or directing a terrorist organization spend a mandatory minimum of 14 years in prison.
The new bill will also overhaul the terrorist licensing regime, doubling the number of specialist counterterrorism probation officers and introducing measures such as polygraph testing. It will increase the number of places available in probation hostels so that authorities can keep closer tabs on terrorists in the weeks after they are released from prison.
The government will also review support available to victims of terrorism, including families and loved ones. It will immediately invest £500,000 to increase the support provided by the Victims of Terrorism Unit, to ensure more victims get the support and advice they need, faster.
The British government will also launch a sweeping independent review of the way different agencies, including police, the probation service, and the security services investigate, monitor and manage terrorist offenders – called Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA). This will be led by Jonathan Hall QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.
Funding for counterterrorism policing will grow to £906 million in 2020 to 2021, a £90 million year-on-year increase. The money will support and maintain the record high number of ongoing counter-terrorism policing investigations and ensure a swift and effective response to terrorist incidents across the country.
The government is also making a major investment in counterterrorism resources in prisons and probation. The package of measures being announced include:
- doubling the number of counterterrorism specialist probation staff – these specially trained staff will deliver a set of new, intensive national standards for managing terrorists on licence – these new standards will mean terrorists are subjected to closer monitoring and reporting requirements.
- an increase in the number of specialist psychologists and specially trained imams, who play a vital role in assessing risk and challenging the beliefs of radicalized offenders.
- an increase in the resources dedicated to training front-line prison and probation staff, who are the first line of defence in identifying and challenging extremism in prisons and probation.
The announcement follows the November 2019 London Bridge attack, when five people were stabbed, two fatally, by Usman Khan who had been released from prison in 2018 after serving a sentence for terrorist offences.
The bill represents a major shift in the U.K.’s approach to the sentencing and management of terrorist offenders by closing gaps in the investigation and monitoring of convicted terrorists.
The Head of Counter Terrorism Policing, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu has welcomed the additional counterterrorism funding, adding that he supports any change in legislation which will ensure dangerous terrorists serve sentences proportionate to their crimes.
“But we have seen our demand increase by around a third since 2017, and the only way we are going to turn the tide is by throwing our support behind the only strategy which attempts to divert people away from violent extremism in the first place – Prevent.
“Whether Prevent is attempting to stop someone following a path towards terrorism, or hoping to rehabilitate and de-radicalize those who have already been convicted, it is our best hope in reducing the threat in the long term.”
Prevent is one of the four pillars of the U.K.’s counterterrorism strategy along with Pursue, Protect and Prepare. The purpose of Prevent is to safeguard and support those vulnerable to radicalization and to stop them from becoming involved in or supporting terrorism. Prevent was originally created in 2003 by the then Labour government, and has since broadened its remit to keep pace with new threat intelligence.