Getting Tough on Terrorism: UK bill set to introduce tougher measures for terrorism related offences

June 22, 2020


2 min read

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What's going on here?

The UK Government has unveiled new measures that would allow terrorism suspects, yet to be convicted, to face indefinite controls.

What does this mean?

would see the weakening of the burden of proof in relation to terrorism prevention and investigation measures (Tpims) and remove the two-year cap on their use. Additionally, this involves the introduction of a new “serious terrorism sentence” that provides for a 14-year jail term and up to 25 years on licence for the most dangerous offences, broadly defined as featuring a likelihood of multiple deaths. Judges will also be allowed to consider if any serious offence is terror-related and allow for tougher sentencing.  The bill also removes the statutory deadline for the independent review of Prevent, an anti-radicalisation programme.

What's the big picture effect?

This broadening of terrorism legislation and the weakening of the burden of proof builds on moves that have been made in response to previous terror attacks at Fishmongers’ Hall in the City of London and Streatham High Road in the south-west of the capital. These events have already resulted in the ending of automatic release at the midway point of a term for terrorist offenders jailed under standard determinate sentences.

The changes are likely to be strongly opposed by civil liberties campaigners. Rosalind Comyn, Liberty’s policy and campaigns officer suggests that these changes would result in the return in all but name of control orders, the more restrictive measures that were scrapped by the coalition government as a stain on our human rights record, arguably where they should remain. Further Rachel Logan, Amnesty International UK’s legal expert, believes that these changes will result in a flimsy burden of proof which would allow individuals’ liberties to be curtailed on an indefinite basis. She adds, “rushing this bill out while parliament is still operating under COVID-19 constraints suggests the government could be trying to minimise scrutiny for significant legal changes”.

The timing of the changes is peculiar, and it is fair to assume that in the UK Ministers may be using the veil of the COVID-19 pandemic to rush through some of their more controversial amendments. Further, these changes have been proposed in light of studies that have shown terror suspects are less likely to reoffend than other criminals (to see our article on that, click here). It seems necessary to then consider if these are the changes to legislation that are needed in the UK or whether a more supportive approach based on rehabilitation would be more beneficial?

Report written by Kasey Cummings

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