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Committee examines fast-track Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill

20 February 2020

The Constitution Committee has published a report on the constitutional issues raised by the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill.

Background

The Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 11 February 2020. It was fast-tracked through all its Commons scrutiny stages on 12 February and all Lords stages are due to take place on 24 February.
The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that terrorist offenders are not automatically released before the end of their custodial term without agreement of the Parole Board.

Key findings

In its report the Committee observes:

  • The Bill is being fast-tracked at a time when other committees which might have wanted to scrutinise the measures – such as the Commons Home Affairs and Justice committees, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights – have yet to be established. This means that there will be less scrutiny of its provisions than there would have been otherwise.
  • The Bill not only makes the release terrorist prisoners subject to the Parole Board’s assessment but also delays the point at which that assessment can take place – from half-way to two-thirds of the way through a sentence. The Committee questions whether it is necessary to include this extension of the time terrorist prisoners will serve as part of this fast-track bill, rather than in the next counter-terrorism sentencing bill that the Government has said it will introduce. The requirement for a Parole Board assessment should be sufficient to ensure that prisoners who still pose a risk to the public are not released early.
  • The workload of the Parole Board has increased in recent years and the Government should explain how it intends to ensure that the Board has sufficient resources to cope with the additional cases it will need to consider.

Further information