Longer sentences for low-tech terror urged

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Oct 12, 2017
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Proposals were fast-tracked because of the London Bridge attack and the four other terror attacks in England this year

Daniel Sorabji/AFP/Getty Images

Tougher jail terms for new-style terrorist attacks involving cars and knives – together with the use of encrypted messages – are urged by a sentencing watchdog today.

Judges’ sentences need to reflect the “less sophisticated methods” of terrorists and the availability of extremist material online that can lead to “self-radicalisation”, The Sentencing Council says. It also spells out for the first time that the use of encrypted communications to avoid detection could be deemed an “aggravating” feature when judges weigh up penalties.

The council’s updated draft guidance says that heavier jail terms for low-level preparatory acts of terrorism are needed in response to a “new category” of terrorists whose plans escalate rapidly. Sentences should rise from the present range of 21 months to five years to between three and six years, the council proposes.

The body, which advises the courts, has fast-tracked publication of its draft guidance on a range of terrorism offences in England and Wales after the five attacks this year. The main change applies to offences under section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006, which covers the preparation of terrorism.

The changes mean that those found guilty of crimes such as encouraging terrorism, or failing to disclose information about a terrorist attack, could see their sentences increased. Last year the Court of Appeal issued guidance for sentences imposed under the section.

Lord Justice Treacy, chairman of the council, said: “Offences vary greatly and could include someone who tries to make a bomb, another who urges others to join a terrorist organisation or a group plotting a murderous attack on the public.”

The proposals, which are subject to a six-week consultation, could be adjusted to take account of any future changes to maximum sentence levels allowed by law.

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