Terrorism Offences – Tougher Sentences on the Way

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The Sentencing Council is consulting on revised sentencing guidelines for several terrorism offences. This is on the face of it a surprising move given that a definitive guideline was only recently implemented.

The main legislative changes impacting the guidelines include increases to the statutory maximum sentences for some offences and an expansion of some offences. 

As a result of the increases to statutory maximum sentences, the Council is proposing consequential increases for the most serious examples of offending.

The main changes include: 

  • Amendment to the culpability factors in the Proscribed Organisations – Support (section 12 Terrorism Act 2000) guideline to provide for offenders convicted of the new section 12(1A) offence of expressing supportive views for a proscribed organisation, reckless as to whether others will be encouraged to support it; 
  • Amendment to the culpability factors in the Collection of Terrorist Information (section 58 Terrorism Act 2000) guideline to provide for offenders convicted of the new offence of viewing/streaming terrorist information over the internet; 
  • Changes to the sentencing tables in the Encouragement of Terrorism (ss1 and 2 Terrorism Act 2006); Failure to Disclose Information About Acts of Terrorism (s38B Terrorism Act 2000), and Collection of Terrorist Information (s58 Terrorism Act 2000) guidelines to reflect the changes to the statutory maximum sentences;
  • Additional guidance added to the Encouragement of Terrorism (sections 1 and 2 Terrorism Act 2006); Proscribed Organisations – Membership (section 11 Terrorism Act 2000); Proscribed Organisations – Support (section 12 Terrorism Act 2000); and Collection of Terrorist Information (section 58 Terrorism Act 2000) guidelines as Terrorism offences guideline, consultation 2 these offences now fall within scope for sentences for offenders of particular concern; 
  • Additional guidance added to the Preparation of Terrorist Act (s5 Terrorism Act 2006); Encouragement of Terrorism (sections 1 and 2 Terrorism Act 2006); Proscribed Organisations – Support (section 12 Terrorism Act 2000); and Collection of Terrorist Information (section 58 Terrorism Act 2000) guidelines as the new legislation made these ‘specified terrorism offences’ for which extended determinate sentences would apply. 

In addition, the Council has chosen to make some minor changes to the Funding guideline to assist Judges to sentence cases where either the offender had knowledge that the money or property would or may be used for terrorism, or where the offender did not know or suspect that the money would or may be used for terrorism. This is an issue that has been raised in case of law recently and so the Council has chosen to take this opportunity to assist sentencers by providing greater guidance.

What will be the impact on sentence length?

Overall, under the draft guideline, sentences are anticipated to increase in some cases, however, any increase in sentence lengths will be a result of the recent legislative changes, rather than the guideline. The revised sentencing guideline, therefore, aims to ensure that future sentencing for terrorism offences is in line with the intention of Parliament when it increased the maximum penalties for some of these offences, while at the same time ensuring consistency of sentencing for these offences. 

As ever, we will remain vigilant and ensure that all guidance is properly adhered to. As the sentencing process becomes ever more complex our advocates are careful to guard against inadvertent error.

The new guidelines are expected to come in to force around April 2020.

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