Get real: We are not dealing with Common Criminals but Committed Combatants

Convicted terrorists are not being prosecuted for radicalising fellow inmates and Jonathan Hall, QC, the government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, will today announce an inquiry into whether prisons are dealing properly with terrorist offenders.

This Inquiry has come not a moment too soon – and let me tell you why.

Over the last year I’ve written about how we must urgently change the way we deal with terrorists in our prisons, there are a number of points to be made but essentially they come down to these.

First of all, back to basics: any conviction under the Terrorism Act (Tact) must be viewed not as a simple crime by common criminals but, instead, as a Declaration of War by ruthless enemy combatants whose stated aim is to destroy our nation, our people, our values and way of life – the difference between criminal and combatant is, literally, fundamental.

The sentence for any conviction under Tact must be life imprisonment, the judge can set the tariff based on their individual circumstances, but then as soldiers they must be held in military prisons, under the control of the Ministry of Defence, where they cannot radicalise vulnerable others in civilian prisons as they currently do with impunity. 

At the end of their tariff, that is the fixed period of time set by the judge to mark retribution and deterrence, there should be a presumption against release, unless a specialist Tact Parole Board, consisting of MI5/MI6 officers, counter terrorism police officers, judges, psychologists and lay people, decide the applicant has displaced beyond reasonable doubt the presumption against release – perhaps simply as a result of old age, infirmity, or terminal incapacitating illness.

Any release must then be subject to the kind of licence conditions we have not seen the likes of before – but cannot argue against any longer. 

Lengthy daily curfews inside an approved address that is subject to disruptive unannounced searches at any time of the day or night, with electronic GPS tagging, internal audio and visual surveillance, internet and mobile phone bans, and covert monitoring too. 

The slightest step out of line and there must be an emergency recall provision that puts them back in custody with a key target of less than one hour and until a new Tact Parole Board again, if ever, orders their re-release.

These are realistic and robust responses that we need to implement now to keep our country safe – and if anyone disagrees with them then kindly go and make your objections to HMP Whitemoor Prison Officer Neil Trundle who came within an inch of his life when he was attacked by Brusthom Ziamani, 25, a Tact prisoner already serving a 19 year sentence for plotting to behead a British soldier, and 26 year old Baz Hockton a prisoner with no prior Tact links who Ziamani was able to recruit and radicalise inside Whitemoor prison where he was free to roam, obtain a potentially lethal weapon and manufacture a genuine looking suicide vest right under the noses of some of the most highly trained prison officers we have in the prison system. 

Anything less is an unforgivable betrayal of those like Lee Rigby, PC Keith Palmer, those slaughtered on Westminster and London Bridges, and the hundreds more maimed and murdered in the Manchester Arena; go and explain your objections to their relatives please, not to me.

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