Terrorism Guideline Consultation

Closed 22 Nov 2017

Opened 12 Oct 2017


What is the Sentencing Council?

The Sentencing Council is the independent body responsible for developing sentencing guidelines for the courts to use when passing a sentence. The Council’s remit extends to allow consultation on the sentencing of offenders following conviction.

Why terrorism?

In 2016, in the absence of sentencing guidelines for terrorism offences, the Court of Appeal gave guidance for sentences imposed under section 5 Terrorism Act 2006 (preparation of terrorist acts) in the case of R v Kahar & Others[1] (Kahar).  The guidance was intended to assist courts to achieve consistency when sentencing these very serious cases which vary hugely in nature. This guidance has worked effectively for sentencing preparation cases up until now, but the changing nature of offending requires that the guidance be reconsidered, and that a comprehensive package of guidelines be produced to cover a wider number of offences.

Over the last year there have been a number of terrorist attacks, and many more have been prevented. These latest acts of terrorism have involved far less sophisticated methods, many using motor vehicles, or knives, with devastating effects. This is a change from the types of case that were considered by the Court of Appeal when putting together the guidance that is set out in Kahar. In addition, there has been growing concern about the availability of extremist material over the internet. The wide availability of this material is increasingly of concern given that consumption of this material can lead to individuals becoming self-radicalised.

It is important to note that any terrorist incident where deaths actually occur, would be charged as murder. The offences covered by these guidelines include offences such as preparation for terrorism, encouragement of terrorism and possession for terrorist purposes. The harm that is involved is the harm that was intended, rather than that that was caused.

This comprehensive package of guidelines has been drafted to help sentencers with the assistance of statistical data case transcripts and Court of Appeal cases.

A fuller explanation of the scope of the guideline and the elements of the offences is given at section one below.

Which offences are covered by the guideline?

There are nine draft guidelines as follows:

Preparation of Terrorist Acts

Explosive Substances

Encouragement of Terrorism

Membership of a Proscribed Organisation

Support of a Proscribed Organisation

Funding Terrorism

Failure to Provide Information about Acts of Terrorism

Possession for Terrorist Purposes

Collection of Terrorist Information


What is the Council consulting about?

The Council has produced this consultation paper in order to seek the views of as many people as possible interested in the sentencing of terrorism offences.

However, it is important to clarify that the Council is consulting on sentencing these offences and not the legislation and case law upon which such offences are based. The relevant legislation is a matter for Parliament and is, therefore, outside the scope of this exercise.

Through this consultation process, the Council is seeking views on:

  • the principal factors that make any of the offences included within the draft guideline more or less serious;
  • the additional factors that should influence the sentence;
  • the approach taken to structuring the draft guidelines;
  • the sentences that should be passed for terrorist offences; and
  • anything else that you think should be considered.

A summary of the consultation questions can be found at Annex A.

What else is happening as part of the consultation process?

As a result of the recent terrorist attacks the Council felt it important to expedite the project in order to produce a package of guidelines as soon as possible. Therefore, this is a reduced consultation period of 6-weeks.

During the consultation period, the Council will host a number of consultation meetings to seek views from criminal justice organisations and other groups with an interest in this area as well as sentencers. We will also be conducting interviews with a sample of High Court and Crown Court judges who sentence terrorist cases to ascertain how they would apply the guideline and to identify whether the guideline presents any practical difficulties for sentencers. Once the consultation exercise is over and the results considered, a final guideline will be published and used by all Crown Courts.

Alongside this consultation paper, the Council has produced an online questionnaire which allows people to respond to the consultation questions through the Sentencing Council website.  The Council has also produced a resource assessment.  These can be found on the Sentencing Council’s website: www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk

[1] [2016] EWCA Crim 568




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