Justice Secretary Robert Buckland: ‘I won’t apologise for trying to stop new terror attack'

Martin Bentham
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland: Getty Images

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has hit back at criticism of sweeping new counter-terrorism powers by declaring that he made “no apology” for trying to prevent a repeat of last year’s London Bridge terror attack .

Mr Buckland said the measures, which include longer sentences, no early release for those classed as dangerous and the introduction of lie-­detector tests, would be put before Parliament within weeks.

It follows the killing of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt by terrorist convict Usman Khan in November on London Bridge.

Khan had been freed halfway through a 16-year sentence for his involvement in a plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange.

Extremist: Usman Khan (West Midlands Police/PA Wire)

In the wake of the murders, Mr Merritt’s father David criticised the promise of tougher action, claiming the Government was acting for political ends.

On Tuesday he hit out at the plans, tweeting: “Lie detector tests don’t work. I’m sure government advisers have told ministers this.”

But Mr Buckland rejected the allegation, insisting that further reforms were needed to safeguard the public.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland (PA)

“I make no apology for putting public protection top of the agenda. This is not just about sentencing, it’s about addressing the causes of extremism,” he said.

On the lie-detector tests he told Sky News: “You can get people who are, in effect, sleepers for years and then suddenly back comes the hatred.

"Polygraphs improve the tools we have in terms of assessing and minimising risk.”

Pressed on accuracy of the tests being as low as 60 per cent, he said: “I’m not pretending they are the be-all-and-end-all, which is why we are also doubling the number of counter-terrorism probation officers … getting more psychologists, specialist imams, who will be working with these people.”

The plans include ensuring that those convicted of serious offences, such as preparing acts of terrorism, spend a minimum of 14 years in jail.

The UK’s most senior counter-terror officer, Met Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, emphasised that preventative work to stop people becoming radicalised remained critical to stopping future attacks.

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