Push to let ministers challenge soft sentences for hate preachers

first_imgIt is imperative that inciting individuals to support terror organisations including so-called Islamic State is includedHarry Fletcher, Voice 4 Victims Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Ministers have pledged to close a legal loophole which prevents them reviewing soft jail terms for hate preachers such as Anjem Choudary.There was outrage last week when Choudary was given a five-and-a-half-year term for inviting support for the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).He was convicted at the Old Bailey after backing the group in an oath of allegiance published online.Under good behaviour rules, Choudary, 49, could be released after serving half of that term – just 33 months. Yet despite receiving scores of complaints about his sentence, ministers are powerless to do anything. Robert Buckland QC, the solicitor general who reviews soft jail terms with Jeremy Wright, the Attorney General, said: “It is a manifesto commitment to extend the unduly lenient sentence scheme so that a greater number of offences can be considered.”  The amendments are to be tabled in the House of Lords next month by Baroness Brinton, and will amend the 1988 Criminal Justice Act that lists the offences allowed to be reviewed. Peers also plan to table amendments to the Police and Crime Bill to bring about the change next month.Harry Fletcher, a spokesman for the Voice 4 Victims campaign, said: “The list of offences for appeal on the grounds of leniency is too short. It needs to be brought up to date.“It is imperative that inciting individuals to support terror organisations including so-called Islamic State is included.” Under the unduly lenient sentence scheme, members of the public can call for a sentence to be increased, allowing ministers to then review the sentence.However, the scheme is currently limited to violent and sexual offences.Choudary’s crime of supporting Isil, under Section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000, is therefore not covered.Last year’s Conservative Party election manifesto pledged to expand the scope of these unduly lenient sentences which ministers can review. It said: “To tackle those cases where judges get it wrong, we will extend the scope of the unduly lenient scheme, so a wider range of sentences can be challenged.”last_img read more