Expert explains why government's new terror laws won't make much difference

12 February 2020, 10:53

The man who used to oversee terror legislation told LBC why the government's new terror laws won't make much of a difference in keeping offenders in jail.

Ministers are rushing through emergency legislation to prevent the automatic release from prison of terrorist offenders who are halfway through their sentences.

The Terrorist Offender Bill was introduced yesterday and is expected to clear all stages in the Commons later today.

Lord Anderson, a cross-bench life peer who was the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation until 2017, explained that the sentences in question are so short that the government's proposals will add very little time.

Asked what his concerns are, he said: "They are legislating in a hurry. There are lots of precedents for that, right back to the 1880s when we were in the middle of an Irish bombing campaign in London, when there was an explosive substances bill which went right through parliament in one day. That seems to be exactly what they are proposing today.

"It makes sense to a lot of people - and certainly makes sense to me - that the parole board should be involved before terrorist offenders are released.

"They would be involved already in more serious cases, someone who has got a life sentence for example. This is about people who have got determinate sentences.

"So maybe shorter sentences like the three years, four months that the Streatham attacker was serving, it will end automatic release at the halfway point, it will allow the parole board to decide when they are safe to be released and the parole board will only make that assessment for the first time at the two-thirds stage.

"You have to bear in mind that with these relatively low sentences, you're not going to make a lot of difference between a half and two-thirds. You're not even going to make a lot of difference if the person is kept in to the end of their sentence.

"You're looking at months, not years and in a sense, you're delaying the release.

A government advisor explained why the new terror laws won't make much difference
A government advisor explained why the new terror laws won't make much difference. Picture: PA / LBC

"What it seems to me is much more important as a matter of policy is first of all, trying to make sure that people don't get dragged into terrorism in the first place - and that's the whole business of Prevent.

"And then secondly, making sure prison time is used productively, which I'm afraid in many ways, it isn't at the moment. So that people when they are released are, if not constructive members of society, then at least they won't be harmful members of society."

Watch his fascinating interview at the top of the page.