You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Terrorist post-sentence jail 'last resort'

AAP logoAAP 14/10/2016 Max Blenkin and Roje Adaimy

Police say they can't guarantee a terrorist released from jail at the end of his sentence couldn't commit an attack, even with intensive surveillance.

Australian Federal Police deputy commissioner Michael Phelan said police could not be everywhere all the time and could not stop someone with an absolute intention to cause harm.

"All you need is a knife, a phone and an ISIL flag and you will cause havoc," he told the parliamentary committee on intelligence and security.

The committee is examining proposed legislation which will allow convicted terrorists to be kept in jail once their sentence has ended, if deemed at risk of committing further terrorist offences.

Mr Phelan said a post-sentence detention regime would be a tool of last resort and would only be used if deradicalisation failed.

Control orders, which can require a person to wear a tracking device, not use the internet and not associate with certain people, could be an alternative.

But Mr Phelan said they required substantial personnel and were extremely expensive, costing $3-4 million per year.

AFP assistant commissioner Neil Gaughan said intensive police surveillance of a person on a control order could not stop an attack.

"Even if we are eyeballing an offender as he is in and out of his house, 24/7 surveillance, we still cannot give you a guarantee there won't be an attack. If they are in a vehicle they can just run someone over ," he said.

There are now 16 people in jail for terrorist offences and another 33 facing charges who could fall within the scope of the proposed post-sentence detention regime.

Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow says none of the 16 are due for release until at least 2019 and there was no rush to pass this legislation.

"Given that there are well over two years before this becomes essentially a live issue, we urge the government to take advantage of this time to make further improvements."

The Human Rights Commission has raised a number of issues, including the scope of offenders subject to the regime, how risk of future offending is assessed and availability of legal advice for those facing extended incarceration.

Legal academics from the University of NSW, University of Queensland and University of Western Australia said they don't believe the bill should be enacted in its current form and should be delayed.

They said post-sentence detention could only be justified if there was a tool to accurately assess the level of risk posed by a convicted terrorist at the end of their jail term and effective rehabilitation programs were available in prison.

"Neither of these currently exist in Australia," University of Western Australia lecturer Tamara Tulich told the hearing.

"Remedying this situation goes beyond simply amending the terms of the bill - there is a need for further research into both the assessment of risk in the terrorism context as well as the development of effective rehabilitation programs."

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon