The Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill was introduced on 20 May 2020. Second Reading in the House of Commons is due to take place on 9 June 2020.

Download the full report

In the Queen’s Speech in December 2019, the Government said it would legislate to “ensure the most serious terrorist offenders stay in prison for longer”.  Following the attacks at Fishmongers Hall in November 2019 and in Streatham in February 2020 the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020 was passed as emergency legislation to change release arrangements for certain terrorist offenders (in England and Wales and Scotland). At that time the Justice Secretary said wider measures would follow.

The Government has said the purpose of this Bill is to better protect the public from terrorism by strengthening the law which governs the sentencing, release and monitoring of terrorism offenders.

The Bill would:

  • Introduce a new sentence for terrorist offenders; the “serious terrorism sentence”, made up of a minimum of 14 years in custody and a 7 to 25 year period of extended licence. Courts would be required to impose the sentence for specified offences where certain conditions are met unless exceptional circumstances apply.
  • Remove the possibility of release at the two thirds point of the custodial part of an extended sentence for relevant terrorist offenders and provide that offenders serving a serious terrorism sentence cannot be released until the end of the custodial part of their sentence.
  • Increase from 10 to 14 years the maximum sentence available for the offences of: membership of a proscribed organisation, inviting or expressing support for a proscribed organisation and attendance at a place used for terrorist training.
  • Allow for any non-terrorist offence with a maximum sentence of over 2 years to be found to have a terrorist connection.
  • Expand the list of offences which can result in an extended sentence and increase the maximum period of the extended licence for certain terrorist offenders from 8 to 10 years (in England and Wales and Northern Ireland, it is already 10 in Scotland).
  • Expand the list of offences that can result in a Sentence for Offenders of Particular Concern (SOPC) and create new sentences, the equivalent of a SOPC, for Scotland and Northern Ireland and for under 18s UK wide.
  • Provide for polygraph testing of certain terrorist offenders when released on licence.
  • Revise the scheme for imposing Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs) on those suspected of involvement in terrorism, by lowering the standard of proof required; expanding the range of measures available; and removing the two year time limit.
  • Enable the police to apply for Serious Crime Prevention Orders (SCPOs) in terrorism cases.
  • Remove the statutory deadline for conducting an independent review of the Prevent Strategy.

The Government has published Explanatory Notes. A Gov.uk page for the Bill provides links to a Fact sheet, Equality Statement, European Convention on Human Rights Memorandum and an Impact assessment. There is also a Bill page on the Parliament website.

The provisions of the Bill extend and apply to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Counter-terrorism is a reserved matter, although sentencing (including release provisions) is devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland. For details see the Explanatory Notes, page 15 and Annex A.

Some provisions of the Bill would come into force on commencement, some two months after the Act is passed and others on a day to be set out in regulations. See the Government’s Fact sheet and the Explanatory Notes, page 42, for details.

  • Commons Research Briefing CBP-8771
  • Authors: Jacqueline Beard, Joanna Dawson
  • Topics: Criminal law, Security

Download the full report