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Terrorists will face longer in prison for offences committed inside

Under new guidelines terrorist offenders who commit crimes in jail will be automatically referred for a police investigation and potential prosecution.

The Justice Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday announced that all terrorist offenders who commit further crimes in jail – however minor - will be automatically referred within a week for a police investigation and potential prosecution. The purpose of the new measures is to increase the likelihood of them being locked up for significantly longer and create a strong deterrent against further offending.

Currently, additional offences carried out inside jail – such as vandalising cells or dealing in contraband - are often dealt with by prison governors, with a maximum penalty of only 42 days added to an existing sentence.

Yesterday’s change means terrorists could face much longer sentences if convicted in court.

This action has been taken in order to fulfil a key recommendation from Jonathan Hall KC’s landmark independent review into terrorism in prisons which was published in April this year.

In his review, Mr Hall said that it was inevitable that some prison conduct will not lead to criminal prosecution, saying that, for example, prosecuting a prisoner-on-prisoner assault may not serve the public interest, especially for offenders serving long sentences. However, he made two key points. Firstly, that it is very much in the public interest to ensure that prison conduct amounting to terrorism offending should be subject to the criminal process. Secondly, he highlighted the fact that the investigation and prosecution of terrorist and non-terrorist criminal prison conduct (for example possession by a prisoner of a knife or phone contrary to the Prison Act 1952) may give rise to important opportunities to disrupt terrorist planning.

Mr Hall acknowledges that police involvement can be disruptive to prison life but says that governors will have to accommodate it in matters relating to terrorist offenders. He goes on to illustrate the impact on prison staff, saying that in order to ensure that evidence is not lost, prison staff need to be alert to the importance of gathering evidence of terrorism offending within prisons. He recommends that if, for example,  a makeshift knife and Da’esh flag are found these should be seized with a minimum of forensic interference and with a proper and clear record of where, when and by whom it was taken, with good evidential continuity from then on, a proper record of what may have been said by the prisoner from whose cell they were seized, together with any other information that may assist on the issue of attribution.

This would enable a criminal prosecution to take place in the courts. Mr Hall’s point is that people convicted of terrorist offences who continue to show their support for terrorism, even if by minor criminal activities inside, should face the full force of the law, rather than being dealt with by way of the prison disciplinary system.

In order to implement this new approach Mr Hall recommended that the following key action points be included in a new terrorism in prison agreement:

The statement by Mr Raab makes it clear that this agreement between HM Prison and Probation Service, Counter-Terror Policing and the Crown Prosecution Service is now in place.

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