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Radicalisation in Prisons

Volume 678: debated on Tuesday 14 July 2020

We take the threat posed by terrorist offenders very seriously. We utilise a range of rehabilitative tools, which include psychological, theological and mental health interventions. In January, the Government announced a number of additional measures for dealing with terrorist offenders, including increasing the number of counter-terrorist specialist staff in our prisons.

In the last eight months, we have seen terrorist attacks in Streatham, Fishmongers’ Hall and, most recently, Forbury Gardens, where the assailant either had just been released from prison, or was out on licence. What improvements does my hon. and learned Friend think could be made to de-radicalisation programmes to prevent these lone wolf, post-release attacks?

My hon. Friend makes an important point about the tragic incidents that we have seen over recent months. She rightly highlights de-radicalisation programmes. Twenty-two trained imams are running such programmes in our prisons, but those are not the only measures that we are introducing. We have increased our training for prison and probation officers to deal with terrorism and we are 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 to that, counter-terrorism police funding is increased this year by £19 million.

There was much discussion about the inadequacy of de-radicalisation work in prisons during the Committee stage of the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill, both in evidence and in debate. We heard that these programmes are not entirely fit for purpose and not always readily available. Clearly, they need a good overhaul—perhaps even more so given the new, longer minimum sentences. The hon. Member for Newbury (Laura Farris) certainly seems to agree with that. Sadly, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp). rejected our amendment in Committee proposing a review to examine the effectiveness and availability of de-radicalisation programmes in prisons. Will today’s Minister accept that they do need to be improved, and launch the review that is needed?

We have increased the number of imams operating the de-radicalisation programmes. We are looked at, and looked towards, by others internationally in relation to the programmes that we operate. Of course, we continually evaluate the programmes that we operate within our prisons.