Proposals for revisions to some of the current sentencing guidelines for terrorism offences in England and Wales were published for consultation by the Sentencing Council, following significant legislative changes brought in by the new Counter Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019.

The main legislative changes impacting the guidelines include increases to the statutory maximum sentences for some offences, and an expansion of some offences.

The Council is seeking views from judges, magistrates and others interested in criminal justice on the proposed changes. The consultation will run from 22 October to 3 December 2019.

The main revisions include:

  • Increased sentencing levels for the Encouragement of Terrorism, Failure to Disclose Information about Acts of Terrorism and Collection of Terrorist Information guidelines, to reflect the new increased statutory maximum sentences;
  • Amendment of the culpability factors in:
  •  the Support for a Proscribed Organisation guideline, to provide for offenders convicted of the new offence of expressing supportive views for a proscribed organisation, reckless as to whether others will be encouraged to support it; and
  • the Collection of Terrorist Information guideline, to provide for offenders convicted of the new offence of viewing or streaming terrorist information over the internet.

As a result of the increases to statutory maxima, the Council is proposing consequential increases for the most serious examples of offending.

The changes in culpability within the Support for a Proscribed Organisation guideline have been made to provide for the new section 12(1A) Terrorism Act 2000 offence. The factors now draw a distinction between an offender in a position of authority or influence who directly invites support for a proscribed organisation and one who expresses supportive views, being reckless as to whether others are encouraged to get involved.

The culpability factors in the Collection of Terrorist Information guideline have been amended to include offending committed by viewing or streaming terrorist information over the internet. This reflects the new legislative change made to section 58 Terrorism Act 2000 intended to reflect the rapid changes to offending in the online world.

The Council has also made some minor changes to the Funding guideline to assist judges to sentence cases where either the offender had knowledge that the money or property would or may be used for terrorism, or where the offender did not know or suspect that the money would or may be used for terrorism.

At the time of developing the current guidelines, the Council was aware that the Government was contemplating changes to terrorism legislation which could impact on sentencing guidelines. At the time of publication, the Government was yet to announce the introduction of a Bill which might take forward the changes and for that reason the Council decided to go ahead and publish the current guidelines to ensure they could be used by sentencers in court as soon as possible.

The Council made clear then, that if, in the future, the legislation did change in a way that impacts the guideline, the Council would endeavour to respond in a timely manner. The Council has already consulted widely on the broader principles of terrorism offences and the proposed revisions do not make changes to that approach.

The revised guidelines apply to offenders aged 18 years and above and will come into effect in early 2020.

“Terrorism offences are extremely serious and can cover a wide range of factual circumstances, making them difficult and sensitive offences to sentence. For this reason, the Council is keen to ensure that the guidelines are kept up to date and fit for purpose. These revised guidelines will ensure consistency and transparency in the sentencing of these offences.”

Mr Justice Julian Goose, Sentencing Council member