Terrorists could be forced to take a lie detector test to prove they have reformed and are not planning another attack, the government has announced.

The plans for “polygraph testing” are part of a slew of measures to reform the way terrorists are punished and monitored.

In the wake of the London Bridge terror attack, tougher sentences which would see terrorists locked up for longer are also included.

 MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Home Secretary, Priti Patel addresses the delegates on the third day of the Conservative Party Conference at Manchester Central on October 1, 2019 in Manchester, England. Despite Parliament voting against a government motion to award a recess, Conservative Party Conference still goes ahead. Parliament will continue with its business for the duration. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
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Priti Patel said the government is willing to do ‘whatever is necessary’ to stop future attacks

Those deemed not to be a risk would have to serve two-thirds of their sentence before they could be considered for release.

London Bridge attacker Usman Khan, who killed two people, had been released from prison on licence in December 2018, halfway through a 16-year prison sentence.

The new measures are contained in The Counter Terrorism (Sentencing and Release) Bill, which ministers say represents a “major overhaul” of the system.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The senseless terror attack at Fishmongers’ Hall in November confronted us with some hard truths about how we deal with terrorist offenders, which is why we immediately announced a review into sentencing and licence conditions, to do whatever is necessary to stop these sickening attacks from taking place.

“Today we are delivering on those promises.”

But Labour said the new strategy was an “admission of failure by the government”.

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, raised questions over the accuracy and reliability of polygraphs.

Other measures in the legislation include:

  • Forcing terrorists who receive extended determinate sentences to serve their full term in prison
  • Ensuring individuals convicted of serious offences like preparing acts of terrorism or directing a terrorist organisation spend at least 14 years behind bars.
  • Getting rid of early release for those classed as dangerous and given extended determinate sentences
  • A doubling in the number of counter terrorism probation officers.
  • A cash injection of £500,000 to support victims of terrorism and a review of the current services on offer
  • An increase in the number of places in probation hostels, designed to allow authorities to monitor terrorists in the weeks after their release
  • A boost to counter terrorism police funding of £90m year-on-year for the coming year to £906m
  • More special psychologists and trained imams to help assess the risk of radicalised offenders
  • More training for frontline staff in prison and probation, in order to identify and challenge extremism

Plans for legislation were first floated in the wake of November’s attack, which saw Khan kill Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt.

Jack’s father criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s response to the atrocity, accusing him of trying to score political points during an election campaign.



Dave Merritt, father of London Bridge terror attack 2019 victim Jack Merritt, speaks to Sky News

The latest figures show there were 44 convictions for terrorism offences in the year to the end of September, with 17 offenders being sent to prison for between four and 10 years.

Five of them were imprisoned for 10 years or more, while one was given a life sentence.

Between 2012 and 2019, around 245 convicted terrorists were freed from jail.



Responding to the announcement, Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott claimed policies enacted during the Tories’ decade in office had undermined the fight against terrorism.

“After ten years in government, a major overhaul now is actually an admission of failure,” she said.

“Major terrorist outrages have occurred all too frequently, including attacks by perpetrators who were known to the security services.

“The fight against terrorism has been undermined by cuts to policing, including community policing, a lack of effective coordination between police and security services as well as the flawed Prevent programme.

“All of these need to change if we are going to improve the safety of our citizens.”

Christine Jardine, home affairs spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats, said judges were already able to lock up terrorists for life – while polygraphs were “not accurate or reliable enough” for such critical decisions.

She added: “We will continue to oppose authoritarian laws that do little to make us safer, but a lot to undermine essential British freedoms.”

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