Northern Ireland will be the only part of the UK where emergency legislation to block terrorists being automatically freed from jail won’t apply.
The Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill was introduced to the House of Commons yesterday and all stages of the emergency legislation will be considered today.
Ministers moved to bring in the laws urgently after the Streatham terror attack and aim to pass the legislation before the next terrorist is due to be released from prison on February 28, with more scheduled in March.
Two attacks in three months have been carried out by convicted terrorists after they were released from prison. Police chiefs have also warned the threat of terrorism is “not diminishing”. The plans, which will affect around 50 prisoners, aim to make sure terrorist offenders serve two-thirds of their sentence before they are considered eligible for release, rather than the current halfway mark.
The legislation, which applies in England, Scotland and Wales, is aiming to get royal assent on February 27.
It may not have been considered for Northern Ireland as it could conflict with the early release provisions for paramilitary prisoners in legislation that followed the Good Friday Agreement. However, the Northern Ireland Office did not respond to a request for comment.
But Ulster Unionist justice spokesman and Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie said Northern Ireland should be included in the latest reforms.
“A terrorist attack in Belfast — or anywhere else in Northern Ireland — should be treated as seriously as a terrorist attack in Manchester or London,” he said.
“The same penalties should therefore be available UK-wide for those who seek to attack our people and our way of life, in any part of our country,” he said.
TUV leader Jim Allister added: “The Terrorism Act is UK-wide legislation. Accordingly, there is no logical reason why these important changes reducing remission should not equally apply in Northern Ireland.”