Frontbench Labour politician says 'lock them up forever' approach to terrorists will not work

A FRONTBENCH Labour politician has said a ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ approach to terrorists should not be the reaction to terror attacks.

Monday, 2nd December 2019, 5:10 pm
Updated Monday, 2nd December 2019, 10:26 pm

On a visit to Portsmouth city centre at Chatterbox Pavilion - designed to celebrate cultural diversity - shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry backed Stephen Morgan who is vying for re-election in the Portsmouth South constituency.

Mrs Thornberry answered questions from The News on how the criminal justice system should handle people convicted of terror offences when they are released from prison.

It comes after two Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were stabbed to death by a convicted terrorist - who was jailed in 2012 but released last year - in London on Friday at a prisoner rehabilitation event.

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Organisers of the Chatterbox Pavilion in Guildhall Walk with front, Labour's Portsmouth South candidate Stephen Morgan and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry on December 2. Picture: Ben Fishwick

Three Portsmouth men were convicted and jailed for between four and six years in 2014 and 2015 after for variously travelling to Syria with Isis and preparing terrorist acts.

The News understands at least one of the trio was living in the city earlier this year after being released from jail.

Speaking to The News, Mrs Thornberry said: ‘It’s right to say that if people are convicted of terrorist offences that they are not like other criminals.

‘I think they are potentially dangerous and we can’t lock them up and throw away the key, tempting though frankly it is.

‘We need to make sure we can rehabilitate people but we have to be so careful.

‘Over and above everything else our primary responsibility is making sure people are safe, so we should not be treating people I think who are convicted of terrorist offences in the same way that you would do a criminal.

‘We need to stop and think about it and think about the best way forward, and not play party politics, and not try and score points with this.

‘This is people’s lives we’re talking about, and we’re talking about how our communities stick together, and how we make sure we continue to understand that Islam is a religion of peace.’

Mrs Thornberry said the criminal justice system had been cut and is ‘on the verge of collapse’.

‘We also need to make sure that when people are in prison they’re not, by their very experience of being in prison, radicalised further,’ she said.

‘Putting these guys together with nothing to do makes it worse.

The former barrister added: ‘We can’t just stick them in prison and forget about them. We need to be much more proactive than we are, and we need to take this seriously because we need to be able to look the family of those two young people who were killed in London in the eye and say “we are doing everything we can to make sure our communities are safe”.’

Previous terror incidents in Britain have seen a rise in hate crime in the city, with mosques and Islamic schools targeted.

Labour’s Mr Morgan said: ‘I’m hugely proud that Portsmouth is a city with such diversity and I regularly community groups and organisations to say we’ve got to create a city full of hope and not hate.

‘I think we demonstrate that on a daily basis and the (Chatterbox) project shows that too. We remain united in calling out that hideous behaviour.’

Prime minister Boris Johnson blamed a 'lefty government' was to blame for the London terrorist's released. Relatives of the victims have criticised his comments.