Terrorism offences sentencing guidelines

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Revised sentencing guidelines for offenders convicted of terrorism offences in England and Wales have been published by the Sentencing Council following consultation.

The revisions, which will come into force on 1 October 2022, update the current guidelines – published in 2018 – and reflect increases in maximum sentences and other changes brought in by the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 and the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act 2021.

Revisions to the Preparation of terrorist acts and Explosive substances (terrorism only) guidelines include:

• new guidance for judges sentencing offenders who meet the criteria for a ‘serious terrorism sentence’. This is a new type of sentence that carries a minimum penalty of 14 years’ custody unless exceptional circumstances apply;
• new guidance and principles for judges to follow when considering whether there may be exceptional circumstances that justify a departure from that sentence.

The revised guidelines also include:

• the Collection of terrorism information guideline which now covers offenders who view material over the internet or download it to use in a specific terrorist act, with a range of up to 14 years in custody
• changes to the sentence levels of up to 14 years in custody in the Encouragement of terrorism guideline to reflect the legislative change which has increased the statutory maximum sentence from seven to 15 years
• the Funding terrorism guideline which now includes factors relating to the extent to which the offender knew that the money (or property) will or may be used for the purposes of terrorism
• changes to the Membership and Support guidelines which include increases to the sentence levels of up to 13 years in custody. These uplifts reflect the legislative change which has increased the statutory maximum sentence for both offences from 10 to 14 years.

Likely impact

(a) Collection of terrorist information (Terrorism Act 2000, section 58), encouragement of terrorism (Terrorism Act 2006, sections 1 and 2), failure to disclose information about acts of terrorism (Terrorism Act 2000, section 38B), membership of a proscribed organisation (Terrorism Act 2000, section 11)

It is expected that the changes to sentence levels in these guidelines will result in increased sentences, particularly for those offenders sentenced for more serious offences. This reflects the increase in statutory maximum sentences from the changes in legislation. However, given the low volume of offenders sentenced for these offences, it is anticipated that the impact of these changes on prison and probation resources is likely to be minimal.

(b) Support for a proscribed organisation (Terrorism Act 2000, section 12)

It is possible that the change in sentence levels may increase sentence lengths for this offence, particularly at the top end of seriousness. However, since no offenders have been sentenced for this offence on a principal offence basis since 2017, the impact of the revised definitive guideline on prison and probation resources is estimated to be negligible.

(c) Funding terrorism (Terrorism Act 2000, sections 15-18)

Given that the changes to this guideline are at step two (after the starting point sentence has been determined), and that the sentencing table is the same as that in the existing guideline, it is not anticipated that the revised guideline covering these offences will have an impact on correctional resources.

(d) Preparation of terrorist acts (Terrorism Act 2006, section 5)

It is possible that the revised guideline may have an upward resource impact for specific cases where the additional guidance on ‘serious terrorism offences’ applies and/or for those cases which concern LEA involvement, however given the very low number of offenders sentenced for this offence, any prison or probation impacts are expected to be small.

(e) Causing explosion likely to endanger life or property/ Attempt to cause explosion, or making or keeping explosive with intent to endanger life or property (Explosive Substances Act 1883, sections 2 and 3)

The existing guideline for these offences is also affected by the 2021 Act in the same way as the Preparation of terrorist acts guideline, and so the additional guidance for cases concerning LEA involvement has also been included within this guideline. It is possible that these changes might increase sentence lengths in specific cases where the additional guidance applies. However, given that the guideline applies only to those offences which relate to terrorism, and a large proportion of the offenders sentenced for explosive substances offences are understood to be non-terrorism related, any impacts on the prison and probation services are expected to be minimal.

How can we help?

We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact any member of our vastly experienced Criminal Defence team, for assistance with any criminal law related matter.

Mr John Stokes (John.Stokes@danielwoodman.co.uk),
Mr Anthony Pearce (Anthony.Pearce@danielwoodman.co.uk) or
Mr Daniel Woodman (Daniel.Woodman@danielwoodman.co.uk).

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