Proposed revision of sentencing guidelines for terrorism offences

The Sentencing Council has launched a consultation (external link, opens in a new tab) to revise sentencing guidelines for four terrorism offences in England and Wales, following legislative changes.

The Council is seeking views on the draft guidelines from judges, magistrates and other members of the criminal justice community with an interest in this area. The consultation will run from today (Wednesday 20 October) to 11 January 2022.

The proposed changes relate to four guidelines, which apply to adult offenders:

Revisions being proposed by the Council 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; and
  • new guidance and principles for judges to follow when considering whether there may be exceptional circumstances that justify a departure from that sentence.

The changes also include proposals to provide additional guidance to assist judges sentencing cases that include the involvement of law enforcement authorities through surveillance or infiltration. This guidance proposes that the court should identify the category of culpability as if the law enforcement officer were a genuine conspirator. Harm should be based on the harm that the offender intended and the viability of the plan.

In addition, proposed changes to the sentencing guidelines for the offences of membership of or support for a proscribed organisation include increased sentence levels of up to 13 years to reflect the new, higher statutory maximum sentences provided for under the 2021 Act.

In March 2018 the Sentencing Council published the first package of terrorism sentencing guidelines. They came into force on 27 April 2018.

In October 2019 the Council published a consultation paper seeking views on amendments to some of the guidelines to reflect changes brought in by the Counter Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019.

In May 2020 the Counter–Terrorism and Sentencing Bill was introduced. At the end of April 2021, the Bill received Royal Assent and subsequently came into force. It is proposed that the 2019 revised guidelines be published in 2022 alongside the revisions made under this consultation process.