Emergency Laws Needed To Keep Terrorists In Jail Longer, Says Justice Secretary

Emergency legislation will end the early release of terror offenders including those already in jail, the justice secretary has announced in the wake of the Streatham terror attack

Robert Buckland told the Commons the “senseless and horrific” attack in south London, which saw two people hospitalised and left a man fighting for his life on Sunday, “makes the case plainly for immediate action”.

HuffPost UK understands the legislation will be tabled by the end of the week and is expected to become law within 10 days.

It will apply to serving terror offenders and will end the automatic release scheme, which can allow some prisoners to be allowed out having served just half of their sentence and without any input from a parole board. 

Buckland said the government will fast-track a new law which would mean no terror offender could be allowed out before having served two-thirds of their sentence. 

A parole board will have final say over when a prisoner is released and no terror offender would be released if they were judged to be a danger to the public. 

Buckland said: “We cannot have the situation, as we saw tragically in yesterday’s case, where an offender – a known risk to innocent members of the public – is released early by automatic process of law without any oversight by the parole board.

Police activity at the scene following the terror attack in Streatham High Road, south London by Sudesh Amman, 20, who was shot dead by armed police following what police declared as a terrorist-related incident. (Photo: PA Wire/PA Images)

“We will be doing everything we can to protect the public, that is our primary duty.

“We will, therefore, introduce emergency legislation to ensure an end to terrorist offenders getting released automatically having served half of their sentence with no check or review.”

It comes after three people were injured when 20-year-old Sudesh Amman began attacking members of the public in Streatham High Street on Sunday. 

Amman, 20, was handed a three-year and four-month sentence in December 2018 for possessing and distributing terrorist documents. 

He had recently been freed from jail and was under surveillance by police, having served half of his sentence under the early release scheme. 

The new measure follows a previous crackdown, which included a £90m funding boost for parole and prison services, the use of lie detector tests and more victim support. 

The incident had echoes of the London Bridge attack last year in which Usman Khan killed two people having previously been released on licence halfway through a 16-year sentence for his part in planning terrorism attacked. 

Buckland said public protection had to come first, adding: “The earliest point at which the offenders will now be considered for release will be once they have served two-thirds of their sentence and, crucially, we will introduce a requirement that no terrorist offender will be released before the end of their full custodial term unless the parole board agrees.

“We will ensure the functions of the Parole Board are strengthened to deal even more effectively with the specific risk that terrorists pose to public safety so, for example, we will ensure that the appropriate specialisms are in place.

“That work is in train and we will take steps to implement this as soon as possible.”

The civil liberties group Liberty has spoken out against the plans for emergency legislation. 

Clare Collier, advocacy director, said it was "a cause of increasing concern for our civil liberties".

She said: "From last month’s knee-jerk lie detector proposal, to today’s threat to break the law by changing people’s sentences retrospectively, continuing to introduce measures without review or evidence is dangerous and will create more problems than it solves.

"It’s clear the UK’s counter-terror system is in chaos and desperately needs proper scrutiny and review.”

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