Radicalisation still a threat in UK jails

British authorities have introduced measures to clamp down on extremism in prisons as government admits 'lone-wolf' terrorists remain a threat

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The British government is still trying to get on top of the threat posed by so-called lone-wolf terror attacks and extremists in prison, it has conceded.

Responding to questions in parliament on Tuesday, justice minister Lucy Frazer said the government had trained 22 imams to run deradicalisation programmes in prisons but said there needed to be more places in transitionary premises for inmates returning to society.

She said the government took the threat posed by terrorists “very seriously” and pointed to an approach that included psychological, theological and mental health interventions.

In the past eight months three terrorist attacks in the UK have been blamed on recently released prisoners acting alone.

Following a stabbing in London in February by an extremist who had left detention only the previous month, the government brought in emergency legislation that scrapped the automatic early release of terrorist offenders halfway through their sentence.

“We have 22 trained Imams doing deradicalisation programmes in our prisons. But those aren’t just the measures that we are introducing,” Ms Frazer said in response to a question asking what improvements could be made to prevent attacks by people acting alone.

“We have increased our training for prison and probation officers to deal with terrorism. We’re bringing in new national standards for managing terrorists on licence. We want more counter-terrorism specialist staff and we want more places in approved premises as a transition from prison to the community.

“In addition, counter-terrorism police funding is increased this year by £90 million (Dh414.2m),” she said.

A new bill introduced by the government would see terrorists convicted of serious offences spending at least 14 years in jail and being monitored for up to 25 years after leaving prison.

Alex Cunningham, an MP for the opposition Labour Party and shadow court and sentencing minister, said there had been much discussion about the “inadequate” deradicalisation programmes in jails and asked if the government would undertake a serious review into them.

He also suggested that more work would need to be done on the programmes if those convicted of terror offences were to spend longer in jail.

In response Ms Frazer, the government justice minister, said: “We have increased the number of Imams operating the deradicalisation programmes. We are looked towards internationally by others as to the programmes that we operate. Of course we continually evaluate the programmes we operate within our prisons.”

A recently released report by the Commission for Countering Extremism in Britain found that extremists had exploited the Covid-19 pandemic to spread racist narratives via conspiracy theories.