Background Briefing

Enhanced Sentencing and Notification Requirements

The government has proposed enhanced sentences for those convicted of general criminal offenses where terrorism is involved.49 This would apply in cases where an individual is convicted of an ordinary offense—such as forgery, fraud, or robbery—committed for a terrorism-related purpose. Under the government’s proposal, as briefly outlined in the consultation document, the court would determine whether the offense was terrorism-related, and all parties would have the right to appeal against such a determination.

It is our understanding that a judge would make this determination upon conviction, and take this into account when sentencing. The maximum sentence for the offense would remain unchanged, but a finding by the judge that the crime was committed with a terrorist intent would suggest a sentence on the higher end of the scale. We understand that the provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 that allow for enhanced sentences for ordinary offenses aggravated by racial or religious motivation provide a model for the proposal.50

Our concerns arise from the fact that the determination would trigger notification requirements the government wishes to institute for terrorism offenders. Under the government’s proposal, anyone convicted of a terro rism offense or ordinary terrorism-related offense and sentenced to 12 months or more in prison would be required to register his or her name and address at the local police station, and inform police of any other address used for five days or more and any foreign travel that will last for more than three days. A breach of the notification requirement would be a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison.

It is unclear from the government’s proposal whether the criminal standard of proof would apply to the judge’s determination that an ordinary crime was committed with a terrorist purpose. In our assessment, fair trial standards require that a measure that carries with it the potential for such a severe sanction, as the notification requirement does, should only be imposed where there is evidence that establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the underlying offense was committed for a terrorism-related purpose. 

49 Home Office, “Possible Measures for Inclusion in a Future Counter Terrorism Bill,” p. 13.

50 Criminal Justice Act 2003, sections 145 and 146.