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Tue, 22 September 2020

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Boris Johnson says he has lost 'patience' with early release of terrorists in wake of Streatham attack

Boris Johnson says he has lost 'patience' with early release of terrorists in wake of Streatham attack
3 min read

The system of automatically releasing convicted terrorists part-way through their sentences has “come to the end of its useful life”, Boris Johnson has declared in the wake of a fresh attack in London.


The Prime Minister said he had “come to the end of my patience” with the sentencing regime as he vowed to “take action” to curb the automatic early release of convicted terrorists who are already serving time in jail.

In a significant ramping up of existing plans, the Prime Minister said the Government would look at how to “retrospectively” curb the release of existing prisoners midway through their sentence - not just those convicted in the future.

Such a move could tee up a major clash with civil liberties campaigners.

The Prime Minister's announcement came after it was confirmed that Sudesh Amman - who was shot and killed by anti-terror police shot on Sunday after stabbing three people while wearing a hoax suicide vest - had been released early from jail.

He was initially jailed for 40 months in 2018 for possession of terrorist materials, but was let out in recent days on automatic release.

Addressing the attack following a speech in London, Mr Johnson said: “I think the question that everybody has about the individual concerned is - well what was he doing out on automatic early release and why was there no system of scrutiny… to check whether he was really a suitable candidate for automatic early release?

“And that is a very complex legal question. And as you know we're bringing forward legislation to stop the system of automatic early release. But the difficulty is how to apply that retrospectively to the cohort of people who currently qualify.”

'END OF MY PATIENCE'

The Government has already pledged to bring in a mandatory minimum sentence of 14 years for those convicted of terror offences, with ministers promising that the overhaul will end the possibility of early release from those who receive Extended Determinate Sentences.

Confirming the Government would now beef up that planned terror crackdown, Mr Johnson said: “We do think it's time to take action to ensure that people - irrespective of the law that we're bringing in - people in the current stream do not qualify automatically for early release...

“And you will be hearing shortly from the Justice Secretary, from Robert Buckland about what proposals we intend to bring forward.

“But I hope people understand that the anomaly we need to clear up is the process by which some people are still coming out under automatic early release without any kind of scrutiny or parole system.”

And, making clear his own frustrations with the system, the Tory leader said those convicted of terror offences who are eligible for release should face scrutiny by “cynical, hardened people who can look into their eyes and really think whether or not these people again pose a danger to the public”.

He added: “Deradicalising people is a very very difficult thing to do…

“That’s why I stress the importance of the custodial option. That’s why I’ve come to the end of my patience with the idea of automatic early release and I hope that people understand why we’re doing that.

“This is a liberal country. It’s a tolerant country. But I think the idea of automatic early release for people who obviously continue to pose a threat to the public has come to the end of its useful life.”

The Prime Minister meanwhile argued that it was “very, very hard and very tough” to ensure rehabilitation for those who espoused extremist ideologies.

He said: “It can happen - but the instances of success are really very few and we need to be frank about that and we need to think about how we handle that in our criminal justice system.”

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