British-born jihadists who plan to travel abroad and join terror groups should face up to life imprisonment, Britain’s most senior judge has said.
Current jail terms for crimes that threaten democratic governments and the lives of innocent civilians are far too lenient and should be increased, according to Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the Lord Chief Justice.
The worst crimes, where extremists had plotted multiple killings, deserve life imprisonment with a minimum term of at least 30 years, Lord Thomas and several other senior appeal judges said.
The Times says the offence would be further aggravated if it was against British armed forces, although the judges say it should make no difference whether the intended acts were at home or abroad.
Factors such as the level of complexity, research and sophistication of the plans will also be taken into account, as well as the terrorist’s apparent commitment to the cause.
Lord Thomas said that the Court of Appeal decided to give guidance on sentencing for offences under Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006, which deals with the preparation of terrorist acts, as sentences have varied widely in past cases.
In one instance, judges quashed the 22-year sentence of Brusthom Ziamani, reducing it to 19 years. He was arrested in East London while carrying a knife and hammer in a rucksack. Police found he had researched the location of army cadet bases, showed his former girlfriend weapons, called Lee Rigby’s killer Michael Adebolajo a “legend” and said he was going to kill soldiers.
In another case, Mohammad Kahar was found guilty of distributing Islamic State propaganda and planning to join jihadists in Syria. He was initially sentenced to five years, but this was increased to eight on appeal.
Around 500 British citizens are believed to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join extremist groups including Islamic State.