This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the second reading and remaining stages of the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill scheduled to take place in the House of Lords on 24 February 2020.
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The purpose of the bill, as described by the UK Government, is to ensure that terrorist offenders are not automatically released on licence before the end of their custodial term without the Parole Board’s prior agreement. Recent terrorist attacks in the UK, including the Streatham attack on 2 February 2020 and the Fishmongers’ Hall attack on 30 November 2019, were committed by individuals who had previously been convicted of terrorist offences and had been released from prison automatically at the half-way point.
The bill would mean that anyone who receives a standard determinate sentence for certain terrorist offences would spend a minimum of two–thirds of their custodial term in prison before being referred to the Parole Board for consideration. A standard determinate sentence requires a person to serve the first half of the sentence in prison and the second half on licence. For offences committed after 1 February 2015, offenders sentenced to less than two years will also be subject to post sentence supervision. The bill would also apply retrospectively to those who are already in prison and serving a custodial sentence.
The Government believes that legislation is “urgently” needed to safeguard the public before further terrorist offenders are released. The next such prisoners are scheduled for automatic release at the end of February 2020. The Government intends to expedite the parliamentary progress of the bill to make it law before their release.
The Government introduced the bill in the House of Commons on 11 February 2020. During the bill’s second reading, MPs raised several issues. These included the bill’s compliance with article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the fast-tracking of the bill through the parliamentary process, and implications for resources. Some have argued that the bill may be subject to legal challenges in court.
The bill completed all stages in the House of Commons on 12 February 2020. It passed with no amendments following its third reading.