COMMONS

Consultation responses to terrorism sentencing guidelines must be fully considered

27 February 2018

The Justice Committee supports the Sentencing Council's broad approach to preparing its draft guideline on terrorism. However, MPs urge the Council to give full and careful consideration to the responses received to its consultation even though it wants to finalise the guideline as soon as possible.

'Full and careful consideration' needed

The Justice Committee supports the Sentencing Council's broad approach to preparing its draft guideline on terrorism. However, MPs urge the Council to give full and careful consideration to the responses received to its consultation even though it wants to finalise the guideline as soon as possible.

As a statutory consultee on draft Sentencing Council guidelines, the Committee submitted its own observations in the form of a letter to the Chairman of the Council, which is published in today’s report.

Key observations

The Committee's key observations include:

  • That while most sentencing guidelines include “age and/or lack of maturity” (where it affects the responsibility of the offender) as a potential mitigating factor, it has not been included as factor for terrorism offences. The Committee recommends that this be included for all terrorism offences.
  • While the Council proposes sentencing ranges that are up to the statutory maximum for the offences of funding terrorism and failure to disclose information about acts of terrorism, for five other offences the proposed sentencing ranges are slightly below the statutory maximum, which allows the courts some flexibility to sentence above the range in exceptionally serious cases. The Committee believes that the latter approach is preferable and recommends that the Council reconsider the upper limit of the sentencing ranges for the two offences where the statutory maximum is currently proposed.
  • The guidelines should explain the objectives of sentencing for terrorism offences within the context of the Government’s wider strategy on the prevention of terrorism, taking into account the impact of sentencing on the prison population.

Chair's comments

Committee Chair, Bob Neill MP, said:

"With recent terrorist attacks in mind, the Sentencing Council has accelerated the process of producing new guidelines to ensure that they are available as soon as possible.

While I commend the urgency with which the Council has responded, it must not in any way compromise the full and careful consideration of the responses that it has received to its consultation, including our own.

I hope that, in particular, the Council will consider our observations on sentencing ranges, mitigating factors and the impact of sentencing on prisons.

Terrorism is a very serious offence and it is right that the guideline reflects public concerns and the grave threats that it poses to society."

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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