LONDON: The British government on Tuesday (Feb 4) defended proposals to extend prison sentences of convicted terrorists after two knife rampages in London – despite warnings it could face a challenge in court.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland on Monday promised "emergency legislation" to end the automatic release of terror offenders half-way through their sentences.
That followed attacks by two men on early release on Sunday in the Streatham area of south London and near London Bridge in November.
Both attackers were shot dead by police. Two people were stabbed to death in November and the latest stabbing injured three.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to raise the minimum time served to two-thirds of the sentence and have a parole board review and approve every early release.
That could keep dozens of convicts up for release this year behind bars.
Senior cabinet minister Michael Gove maintained that some terrorist offenders should be imprisoned indefinitely "if necessary".
"Until we know that they are comprehensively de-radicalised and that it is safe to have those people on our streets then public protection must come first," Gove told Sky News television.
But Alex Carlile – a respected legal expert who served as an independent reviewer of anti-terror legislation – said the new proposals "may have gone too far".
"The decision to lengthen the sentences of people who have already been sentenced, and therefore expected to be serving half the sentence the judge imposed upon them, may be in breach of the law," Carlile told BBC television on Monday night.
"It's certainly going to be challenged."
The main opposition Labour party's justice spokeswoman Shami Chakrabarti – a former head of rights group Liberty – also expressed concern.
She said the government was "going to go down the road of punishment without trial or extending sentences of people who have already been sentenced."
An unnamed government source told the Politico news site that Johnson's team was "quite willing to have that battle with the lawyers".
Johnson appears to have the public on his side.
A YouGov poll conducted before Sunday's attack indicated that nine in 10 respondents backed life sentences for terror offenders "if the circumstances are serious enough".
The south London attack by 20-year-old Sudesh Amman dominated newspaperRead More – Source