CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

JUSTICE – COUNTER-TERRORISM AND SENTENCING BILL – 9 June 2020

Dr Julian Lewis: My right hon. and learned Friend mentions a couple of cases, including Fishmongers’ Hall. Does that not illustrate ​the great range of problems that have to be addressed? In recent times, was there not a case where someone had to be released even though people were sure he would reoffend at the first opportunity – he did so, and had to be trailed and stopped by an MI5 team – whereas at Fishmongers’ Hall, was the problem not that the person had claimed to be reformed and that there was no reason, apparently, not to release him? It will have to be a very comprehensive piece of legislation to cope with such a wide range of problems.

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Robert Buckland): I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend, who speaks with experience of these matters. He helps me to outline the point I was about to make about the complex and evolving nature of the threat. He is right to talk about different types of threat: superficial compliance, which we saw, sadly, with regard to Fishmongers’ Hall; and known threat, but with an inability of the authorities, due to the current regime, to manage that within custodial settings, and the paraphernalia, cost and sheer planning that has then to be undertaken to try to deal with and manage the threat in the community. ...

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David Lammy: ... Removing the Parole Board for serious terrorism offenders is not only a problem in terms of monitoring the threat level of convicted offenders and the ability to use the intelligence gleaned; it could also actively undermine these offenders’ incentives to abandon their ideologies. When prisoners know that they have to behave well in order to get out earlier, this engagement can have a transformative effect. Without the extra incentive, we reduce the chances of engagement in rehabilitation. That is particularly concerning when we consider young people under the age of 21 who have been convicted of terrorist offences. Whatever they have done wrong, those seduced by dangerous ideologies in their teenage years must be given every opportunity to change.

Dr  Lewis: I strongly endorse what the right hon. Gentleman has just said about the distinction between young people and people of mature years who embrace extremist totalitarian ideologies. Looking back to the time of Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism, we see that very few people who embraced it as adults ever gave it up or could have been de-radicalised, but that there are countless examples of young people who went through a phase of addiction to it and then rejected it completely. So he is absolutely right to focus on this age distinction.

Mr Lammy: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his careful and considered observations. Of course he is right in what he says, because when we are talking about this category of offender we are often talking about gross immaturity, and with appropriate intervention and the appropriate assessment it is possible to effect de-radicalisation. ...

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Yvette Cooper: ... Many of the challenges relating to this legislation are the same ones that we have addressed and dealt with for many years – how to deal with people who have such warped ideology that they are determined to wreak huge destruction, including killing children; how to deal with people who have become so dangerously radicalised that they may be hard to address through traditional criminal justice system measures; and how to ensure that while we protect our national security, we also protect our democratic values and our freedoms and sustain ​justice, the rule of law and community cohesion. To do so, we need strong powers to tackle terrorism but also strong safeguards and strong checks and balances. ...

Control orders were not perfect, and they were applied in those limited circumstances. Long-standing Members will know that I have spent almost a decade arguing with the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) about the decision made in 2011 to end control orders and replace them with TPIMs, rather than simply amending control orders to deal with some of the areas that needed improving. I thought it was wrong to make the decision to downgrade some of the powers in the TPIMs that were introduced. It is worth briefly addressing why, because it has an impact on the decisions that Ministers are making today.

First, I thought it was wrong to remove the ability to relocate dangerous terror suspects and to remove any possibility of doing so, to remove them from dangerous networks. ...

My second concern was about preventing the ability to constrain some communications for dangerous terror suspects. ...

My third concern was about the two-year limit set for TPIMs. ... In many ways, we have had an unnecessary 10 years of administrative going round in circles and changing the burdens on the Security Service and police forces, when we could have made more sensible amendments at the beginning to address those issues. It would be interesting to know whether Ministers now recognise that those changes were wrong and that we should not have made them in the first place.

Dr Lewis: May I say from the Government Back Benches that some of us are convinced that the right hon. Lady has been proven right, but will she acknowledge the motives of former Governments being cautious in these very delicate areas?

Yvette Cooper: I do recognise that these are always difficult judgments, and I say this in a cross-party spirit. ... it is hugely important to have strong safeguards and strong checks and balances. That is where I think Ministers are getting some of the provisions wrong in the Bill. ... The Bill does not include any safeguards requiring judicial scrutiny after two years. That was a weakness in the original control orders as well: those sorts of independent safeguards were not in place, where they could be continued.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Chris Philp):   ... when a TPIM order is made by the Home Secretary, it is reviewed by the High Court under section 6 of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011. The High Court has to give permission before that TPIM can come into force, and if the High Court finds that it is “obviously flawed”, permission is not granted, so there is a judicial safeguard inherent in the structure of TPIMs. If the subject of the TPIM feels that they have been unfairly treated, they may go to the Court for a judicial review. There are significant safeguards inherent in the structure of TPIMs. ...

Dr Lewis: In the Minister’s references to TPIMs, he may have answered a question that I was hoping to ask him a little later: what do we do about that category of people who have gone abroad to fight for terrorist-backing organisations and return to this country, where there is not enough evidence to prosecute? I think that the Bill does not say a lot about that. If I am wrong, will he correct me? If I am right, surely that is an area where TPIMs might be relevant.

Chris Philp: Indeed. In relation to people who go overseas to assist terrorist organisations, we deprive them of their citizenship where we can, if it is lawful – if they are, for example, dual nationals – to prevent their return here in the first place. It is right that we do that. Secondly, on their return, it is our strong preference, if there is sufficient evidence, to prosecute them under the criminal law, as we very often do. However, if there are evidential difficulties and we cannot meet the burden of proof required by a criminal court – beyond reasonable doubt – but we do have a reasonable suspicion, we can use TPIMs to protect the public, should the Bill be passed in this form. The excellent example from my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) illustrates exactly why TPIMs could help us in those cases where we cannot achieve prosecution. Evidence from Syria, for example, is very hard to gather, but in cases where we have a reasonable suspicion, we must act to protect the public.