This Bill, prompted by recent atrocities in Fishmongers’ Hall and Streatham, has been introduced with the objective – which I support – of ensuring that terrorist offenders with determinate sentences are not automatically released before the end of their custodial term. The Parole Board must first have a chance to examine whether they pose a continuing threat to the public.
The Bill has been fast-tracked to a remarkable degree. It is scheduled to have its second reading, committee stage, report stage and third reading in the House of Lords on a single day, Monday 24 February: our first sitting day after recess. Consideration of the Bill will begin at 3pm and will be interrupted by a short debate on other matters. More than 30 peers are down to speak. It is possible therefore that the House will have to sit very late.
The Bill and associated documents can be found here.
The House of Lords Library on Wednesday published the following note.
The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, published this note on the same day.
On Tuesday, I wrote this letter to the Government, making four points on which I needed further information and reassurance. They were:
- The application to existing prisoners of the decision to move the first possible release form the half-way to the two-thirds point of sentence
- The non-application of the Bill to Northern Ireland
- The management of risk from offenders released at the end of sentence
- The non-publication of the annual report of the IRTL.
Today, with the support of Lord Carlile (like me, a former IRTL), the Lib Dem Lord Beith and the Conservative Lord Garnier, I tabled three amendments directed to the first point. Parliament, broadly speaking, may do what it likes. It needs to think carefully, however, before departing from the well-established common law principle that
existing prisoners should not be adversely affected by changes in the sentencing regime after their conviction.
Monday’s debate can be followed live here.