Brian Sims

Government launches new drive to tackle terrorism in prisons

MORE DANGEROUS and influential terrorists will be separated in specialist prison units to thwart the spread of their poisonous ideology, the Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has announced. The move is part of a comprehensive and bolstered approach towards clamping down on terrorist activity in jails in England and Wales following the publication of a landmark review carried out by Jonathan Hall QC (the Government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation).

As part of these measures, a new £1.2 million team will quickly identify and target the most influential and charismatic terrorists such that they can be moved to one of the Prison Service’s three ‘Separation Centres’ and kept completely apart from the main prison population.

In line with Jonathan Hall’s recommendation, the process for referring prisoners to the centres will also be strengthened against potential legal challenge. At the same time, the Government’s new Bill of Rights will limit terrorists’ ability to bring trivial claims against their treatment under the Human Rights Act.

Meanwhile, £6 million will be invested to expand ‘Close Supervision Centres’, where the most physically violent offenders (including terrorists) can be held. This will then help to prevent their potential recruitment to extremist causes.

Evolving threat

Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab stated: “The threat from terrorism is evolving, so it follows that our response must adapt. We are going to take a more decisive approach in our prisons, not allowing cultural and religious sensitivities to deter us from nipping in the bud early signs of terrorist risk.”

Raab continued: “We will isolate more of the most radical terrorists in ‘Separation Centres’, while our Bill of Rights will prevent terrorists using the Human Rights Act to claim a ‘right to socialise’ in prison.”

Subequent the shocking terror attacks of 2019 and 2020, the Government has delivered the largest overhaul of terrorist sentencing and supervision in decades in order to keep the public safe. This includes ending the automatic early release of terrorist offenders and tougher sentences for the most serious offences.

Key recommendations

Now, the Deputy Prime Minister has detailed how the Government will go further than ever in meeting the evolving threat of terrorism head on, while also accepting the recommendations made by Jonathan Hall QC in his report.

The recommendations were designed to ensure the Government’s response remains flexible, swift and decisive when it comes to keeping the public safe and include:

*strengthening the referral process for offenders placed in ‘Separation Centres’, making sure there are no trivial grounds on which terrorist offenders can frustrate their placement in those centres

*handing Prison Governors greater autonomy for tackling and reducing terrorist behaviour in their prisons, ensuring that they have the knowledge, resources and skills to meet this challenge, and also putting key targets in place to improve performance

*improving and future-proofing the training received by front line prison staff to spot the signs of terrorist activity behind bars, in turn ensuring they remain one step ahead of the game by gathering the most up-to-date information on evolving threats and the most effective means to tackle them

In his report, Jonathan Hall has praised the substantial investment made by the Government in tackling terrorism in prisons. Since 2017, 32 terrorist plots have been uncovered and intercepted by the Security Service MI5 and Counter-Terrorism Policing. Despite this, terrorism remains an ever-present and evolving threat, with the UK’s national threat level set at ‘Substantial’ following a number of devastating attacks, including at Fishmongers’ Hall, Streatham, Reading and the first attack inside a British prison at HMP Whitemoor.

Major steps

The Government has taken major steps to clamp down on terrorist activity behind bars and keep the public safe with over 200 prisoners convicted of terrorist offences in the estate at any one time, and a similar number considered a terrorist risk.

‘Separation Centres’ and ‘Close Supervision Centres’ are limiting the interactions of terrorist offenders and stringent monitoring of communications has been introduced to intercept further intelligence, networks and plotting. A specialist training programme has also equipped 15,500 front line prison officers to identify and challenge terrorist behaviour.

At the same time, the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act, which became law in 2021, represents the largest overhaul of terrorist sentencing and monitoring in a generation. The new Serious Terrorism Offence introduces a 14-year minimum jail term and a minimum licence period of seven years. The Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act also widens the range of offences classed as terror-connected and increases maximum penalties for certain terrorism offences.

Company Info

Security Matters

Western Business Media
Dorset House
64 High Street
East Grinstead
RH19 3DE

Login / Sign up