Former MI5 Boss Calls For ‘Whole Life’ Prison Sentences for Terrorists

WREXHAM, WALES - MARCH 15: A prison guard walks through a cell area at HMP Berwyn on March 15, 2017 in Wrexham, Wales. The mainly category C prison is one of the biggest jails in Europe capable of housing around to 2,100 inmates. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The former director-general of MI5 said that while he backs the emergency legislation to prevent the automatic release of terrorists, he said that those convicted of serious terror-related crimes should serve their “whole life” behind bars.

The Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill, which officially became law last night after passing through the House of Commons, bars the automatic release of convicted terrorists. However, Jonathan Evans, who served as head of the Security Service until his retirement in 2013, called on the government to enact harsher sentences for terrorists.

“I think there’s a case for whole life tariffs and from my perspective, it would not be a major problem if they were introduced more widely for very serious terrorist offences.’ Whole life tariffs are usually imposed on the very worst murderers such as serial killers and child killers,” he said per the Daily Mail.

The emergency legislation was introduced following the Streatham Terrorist attack, in which Sudesh Amman stabbed two people in London, just days after being automatically released from prison halfway through his term. The new law mandates that terrorists must serve at least two-thirds of their prison sentence and must appear before a parole board of judges and psychiatrists.

The bill was rushed through the legislative process before February 28, in order to prevent the automatic early release of Mohammed Zahir Khan, who was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for spreading terrorist propaganda material in 2018. Approximately 50 other terrorists will be blocked from automatic release under the Restriction of Early Release Bill.

In response to the new legislation, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said: “No terrorist should be released early only to kill and maim on our streets. Protecting the public is Government’s first duty and our message is clear – enough is enough.”

“From today, terrorist offenders will only be released before the end of their sentence if the independent Parole Board is satisfied they no longer pose a threat, and they will face the strictest possible conditions and monitoring upon release,” Buckland added.

Before the bill was passed, Lord Edward Garnier, said that it is “delusional” to think that the increased sentences will prevent terrorists from committing violence again once released, calling for increased funding for rehabilitation in prisons.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said earlier this month that he does not believe that rehabilitation is possible for many terrorists.

“I think, looking at the problems we have with re-educating and reclaiming and rehabilitating people who succumb to Islamism, it’s very, very hard, and very tough, and it can happen, but the instances of success are really very few,” Johnson confessed.

“[W]e need to be frank about that, and we need to think about how we handle that in our criminal justice system,” he added.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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