Terrorism watchdog launches enquiry into prison radicalisation

The UK’s terrorism watchdog has warned extremism may be rampant in Britain’s prisons following recent evidence of inmates being brazenly radicalised behind bars.

Jonathan Hall QC suggested inmates banged up for terrorist offences are simply not being punished properly for practising extremism in jail and complained of an “increasing drumbeat of links” between terrorist incidents and spells in prisons.

Hall has announced a review into terrorism in Britain’s prisons, looking into how it “is detected, policed, disrupted and prosecuted when it occurs within the prison estate”.

Specifically, the government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation will look into the “glorification” of terrorism behind bars, the dissemination of terrorist publications, possible connections between prison gangs and terrorism, and ensuring admissible evidence of offences being committed is collected in British prisons.

“There has been a steady drumbeat over recent years of terrorist attacks against prison officers, and an increasing number of individuals who may well have formed their terrorist intent in prison under the influence of high-status terrorist prisoners,” Hall told the Times.

“If terrorism exists [in prison] then it ought to be dealt with. We need scrutiny of how prisons operate to either contain or worse encourage, terrorism.”

Hall previously warned the government about the way terrorist inmates are allowed to behave on the inside, leading to grave consequences: “I find it astonishing that someone should go to prison for plotting a terrorist atrocity and the concern is not that they themselves are at risk of attack like a paedophile is often at risk of attack because prisoners generally say what they’ve done is terrible.

But instead, “terrorists automatically achieve a sort of status.” And it works both ways, terrorists in prison often see themselves as “untouchable”, says former counterterrorism analyst, Eilish O’Gara.

“They know how to keep their hands clean, and they are very smart. They know how to run rings around the prison system”

The link between prison and terrorism has hit the headlines in recent weeks. Earlier this month three convicted terrorists were charged with attacking a prison officer. Two of them are known to the public: Hashem Abedi, who plotted the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing with his brother, and Ahmed Hassan, who was jailed for the botched Parson’s Green bomb in 2018.

Reading knife attacker, Khairi Saadallah was given a whole life sentence this month for killing three innocent people. He was radicalised by a preacher during an earlier stint in prison.