Government defends race against time to stop more terrorists being freed from prison following Streatham attack

The Justice Secretary has defended the Government's push to introduce legislation to lengthen time spent in prison for those convicted of terror offences.

Speaking on the Peston show, Robert Buckland said the bill was not "muscle-clenching" or "knee-jerk reaction" to the Streatham attack on Sunday, or that at Fishmongers' Hall in November.

Instead, the South Swindon MP said the Government's plan to ensure those convicted of terror offence serve at least two-thirds of their sentences and are only released after a Parole Board review is in the interest of "public protection".

"It's the first job of Government to get that right, and that's what we're doing," he told ITV's Political Editor Robert Peston.

The Government aims to introduce a bill by February 27 that will ensure offenders serve at least two-thirds of their sentence before they are considered eligible for release.

Under current legislation, as many as 50 convicted terrorists could be automatically released from prison this year.

The first release is scheduled for February 28, with a further five expected in March.

Lawmakers are anxious to speed the bill through in the wake of Sunday's stabbing incident in Streatham, London - where 20-year-old convicted terrorist, Sudesh Amman, stabbed two people just 10 days after he was released from prison.

Amman was shot dead at the scene by police who were tailing him.

Labor's Rosie Duffield, also appearing on ITV's Peston, said she was uncomfortable with pushing the bill through too quickly.

"This is a huge change potentially to our whole legal system so it's vital that we scrutinise it," she said.

Lord Carlile, a former reviewer of terror legislation, raised concerns about the new legislation earlier in the week and said they "may be in breach of the law."

Mr Buckland conceded that there may well be legal challenges, but he said the changes were "measured."

"I'm confident this is not just the legal thing to do, but it's the right thing to do," he said.

He said deradicalisation measures inside prisons had been "stepped up" in the last few years but he believed some prisoners weren't "capable of rehabilitation."

Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones were stabbed to death by convicted terrorist Usman Khan in November. Credit: PA