Bishop of Southwark hails “remarkable and resilient” community response to Streatham attack

On 3rd February 2020 the House of Lords heard the repeat of a statement made in the House of Commons by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, on the terror attack in Streatham the previous afternoon. The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, responded to the statement:

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I have nothing but admiration for the response of the emergency services and the police in this incident, in the recent one at Fishmongers’ Hall, and in the one two and a half years ago at London Bridge, very near my cathedral. It is incumbent on me to try to correct what might be a mishearing of an earlier contribution. The response of the community in each of these cases has been remarkable and resilient. A major part of that response has come from the Muslim community, which has shown its conviction and commitment to peace-desiring and law-abiding ways of living and supporting the wider nation. The Statement said nothing about this because it did not have to, but I feel incumbent as a Bishop to do so.

The community response yesterday was very remarkable. The rector of the parish was immediately out on the streets, giving refreshments to the emergency services. The parish church was open for prayer. Yesterday and at noon today—when I was able to be present—a large number of people from the community came. First thing on Thursday morning, the rector and I will be going to the Streatham mosque, at its invitation. It is immensely important for the nation to be aware of this wider dimension.

My question for the Minister relates to the fairly open sentence in the Statement:

“The time offenders spend in prison is an opportunity to do our best to rehabilitate them, recognising that this is no simple challenge.”

This is about something wider than antiterrorism strategy and rehabilitation. I have been made aware, again and again, of failures in rehabilitation provision in the five large, significant prisons in my diocese. Cases have often fallen back on the chaplaincy when people have come near to release and inadequate arrangements have been made. They are just being thrown out of prison; they are very vulnerable and at risk. A wider review of rehabilitation is called for.

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie) (Con): My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for his contribution. Clearly, one should not confuse the religion of Islam with the behaviour that we are concerned with here. I deplore any attempt to bring the two together or merge them in some way.

On the matter of rehabilitation, prison, a custodial sentence, is an opportunity for rehabilitation. The challenges of rehabilitation apply right across the prison community, but they are particularly stark in the case of terrorist offences where there has been radicalisation. We recognise that, which is why we will ​continue to look at the question of rehabilitation, not only during the period of custody but post release and during any licence conditions.


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