UK Terror Watchdog to Review Terrorism in Prisons

January 26, 2021 Updated: January 26, 2021

The UK’s independent terrorism legislation watchdog is to start reviewing how to deal with terrorism in prisons.

Jonathan Hall QC, appointed in May 2019 as an independent reviewer of the UK’s terrorism legislation, has so far submitted two annual reports to the government. He announced on Monday that the subject of terrorism in prisons in England and Wales will be a part of his next review.

“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 of London.

Scrutiny was needed of “how prisons operate to either contain, or worse encourage, terrorism,” he said.

Unless measures are in place, prisoners may come under the influence of terrorists while in jail for other crimes, later going on to commit terrorist attacks on their release.

Or inmates may plan and carry out attacks on prison staff or other prisoners.

Brusthom Ziamani, one of the two men who stabbed prison officer Neil Trundle in January 2020 in the first terrorist attack in a British prison, was serving a 19-year sentence for plotting to behead a soldier in 2014.

Judge Mrs. Justice May said that Ziamani’s “adherence to extremist ideology clearly persists,” and that his accomplice Baz Hockton was “inspired by extremist beliefs” and had a “terrorist connection,” according to the BBC.

According to a report (pdf) published last year by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, which examined data from 10 European countries, there have been six known cases of terrorist attacks within prisons and 22 prison‑related plots since 2015.

The prison‑related plots included “attacks that followed an inmate’s release; plots the perpetrators of which met in prison; or attempts to coerce authorities into releasing prisoners.”

Solutions to the problem require a degree of flexibility to fit the situation in a particular prison, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, the report stated.

Hall told The Times of London that there is likely more radicalisation than currently recorded.

“It is unlikely that every act of encouragement will have led to a plot, so it is reasonable to assume that there is more encouragement going on in prisons than disclosed by these plots,” he said.

He also said that he was shocked that terrorists aren’t despised as paedophiles are, but instead somewhat revered.

In his announcement, Hall said he will focus on three areas in regard to terrorism in prisons (pdf):

Firstly, he will investigate criminal acts of encouraging terrorism in prison, including glorifying terrorism and disseminating terrorist publications.

Secondly, Hall is interested in the status and influence of convicted terrorist prisoners in prison, and whether this is connected to Muslim or right-wing prison gangs.

Thirdly, he will look at responsibilities for securing admissible evidence of terrorist offences or terrorism-related activity in prison.