14-Year Minimum Jail Terms for Most Dangerous Terror Offenders

Terrorists face a minimum of 14 years behind bars for serious offences and tougher monitoring, as a new Bill enters Parliament today (20 May 2020)

  • serious terror offenders to spend longer in prison

  • no prospect of automatic early release

  • up to 25 years monitoring after leaving prison

The Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill marks the largest overhaul of terrorist sentencing and monitoring in decades.

It will end early release for terror offenders who receive Extended Determinate Sentences, where the maximum penalty was life, and force them to serve their whole term in jail.

It will also see the most dangerous offenders - those found guilty of serious terror offences such as the worst examples of preparing acts of terrorism - handed a minimum 14-year prison term and up to 25 years on licence.

Justice Secretary & Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, said:

Terrorists and their hateful ideologies have no place on our streets. They can now expect to go to prison for longer and face tougher controls on release.
From introducing a 14-year minimum for the most dangerous offenders, to putting in place stricter monitoring measures, this government is pursuing every option available to tackle this threat and keep communities safe.

The Bill will also allow the courts to consider if any serious offence is terror-related, for example an offence involving firearms where there is a proven terrorist connection, and allow tougher sentences to be imposed.

This would rule out any possibility of a serious terror offender being released automatically before the end of their sentence.

Key measures of the Bill include:

  • a new ‘Serious Terrorism Sentence’ for dangerous offenders with a 14-year minimum jail term and up to 25 years spent on licence

  • ending early release for the most serious offenders who receive Extended Determinate Sentences – instead the whole time will be served in custody

  • increasing the maximum penalty from 10 to 14 years for a number of terror offences, including membership of a proscribed organisation

  • ensuring a minimum period of 12 months on licence for all terror offenders as well as requiring adult offenders to take polygraph tests

  • widening the list of offences that can be classed as terror-related to ensure they carry tougher sentences

  • boosting the monitoring and disruption tools available to the security services and counter-terrorism police, by strengthening Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures and supporting the use of Serious Crime Prevention Orders in terrorism cases

Home Secretary, Priti Patel said:

The shocking attacks at Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham revealed serious flaws in the way terrorist offenders are dealt with.  We promised to act and today we are delivering on that promise.
Those who senselessly seek to damage and destroy lives need to know we will do whatever it takes to stop them.

The Bill follows emergency legislation passed in February which retrospectively ended automatic early release for terrorist offenders serving standard determinate sentences. This forced them to spend a minimum two-thirds of their term behind bars before being considered for release by the Parole Board.

It builds on recent government action to bolster the country’s response to terrorism and ensure we have some of the strongest measures in the world to tackle the threat. This includes:

  • Counter-Terrorism Police funding increased by £90 million for 2020/21

  • review of support for victims of terrorism, including immediate £500,000 to the Victims of Terrorism Unit

  • doubling the number of Counter-Terrorism specialist probation staff

  • An intensive National Standards for managing terrorists on licence – meaning more offenders will be sent to Approved Premises for longer after release, subject to stricter monitoring and electronically tagged to monitor their location

  • More places available in probation hostels so that authorities can keep closer tabs on terrorists in the weeks after they are released from prison

  • An independent review led by Jonathan Hall QC of the way different agencies investigate, monitor and manage terrorist offenders

In addition a nationwide network of counter-terrorism specialists is now embedded throughout the prison and probation service and supported by the 29,000 staff who are trained to spot the signs of extremism.