The UK has toughened its sentencing guidelines for offenders who plot terrorist attacks that could lead to multiple casualties, who may now face at least 14 years in prison.
On Wednesday, the Sentencing Council for England and Wales published plans to revise the sentencing guidelines for terrorism offences to reflect changes brought in by the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act 2021, which created a new category of “serious terrorist offences” amid concerns that terror plotters were receiving relatively light sentences.
Under the new guidance, which will be subject to a consultation until Jan. 11, those convicted of “serious terrorist offences” will receive a minimum penalty of 14 years’ custody unless exceptional circumstances apply.
The offenders will also be subject to tighter monitoring once they are released from jail, as judges will be instructed to impose stricter licence terms of between 7 and 25 years.
According to the Council, the sentence applies where “the court is of the opinion that there is a significant risk to members of the public of serious harm occasioned by the commission by the offender of further serious terrorism offences or other specified offences.”
For the sentence to apply, the offender must have also planned to commit an act of terror that “was very likely to result in or contribute to (whether directly or indirectly) the deaths of at least two people.”
The guidelines also increased jail sentences for the offences of membership or support for a proscribed organisation to up to 13 years.
The proposed guidance was welcomed by Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and deputy prime minister.
“These proposed guidelines will support judges to pass consistent and appropriate sentences in terrorism cases,” he said. “Those who kill and maim in the name of warped and fanatical ideologies will spend longer behind bars, because public protection is our top priority.”
The Sentencing Council’s lead member for terrorism offences, Mrs Justice Maura McGowan, said: “Terrorism offences are serious criminal acts that are constantly evolving, and the law is regularly updated in line with the changing nature of the offences, requiring a new approach to sentencing.
“The Council is proposing revisions to existing sentencing guidelines to reflect the new legislation and ensure that the courts have comprehensive and up-to-date guidance for dealing with these extremely serious cases.”
The Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill was introduced in May 2020 and received Royal Assent in April 2021.
PA contributed to this report.