New research shows the number of convictions for Muslim extremism has rocketed amid fears of radicalisation inside Britain’s jails
Increasing numbers of Islamist terrorists are being released from jail to commit repeat offences as Britain witnesses a new “revolving door” of extremists, experts have warned.
Terrorism convictions have nearly doubled in the last four years compared with rates seen in the previous decade, according to research by a prominent think-tank.
Early indications from new project by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) think-tank showed the number of people convicted of terrorism offences has increased in the last five years, as police make growing use of new legislation to disrupt extremist networks.
Hannah Stuart, research fellow at the HJS, said: “We are starting to see with lower level offences and those with a high degree of ideology behind them that there is a revolving door for them.
“We are seeing cases of terrorism recidivism – they serve a sentence and are released, then commit another crime and are jailed again.
“There is now a concerted effort by the police as part of an attempt after the murder of Lee Rigby to disrupt extremists.”
Miss Stuart is updating a report published by the organisation in 2011, Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections, which detailed Islamist offenders from 1999 to 2010.
It found 129 people had been found guilty of 133 separate convictions in all over the period, a rate of 11.5 a year.
From the start of 2011 to the present, the research team his pin-pointed 92 offences meaning the rate per year has increased to about 20 a year on average.
In addition, there have been a further 40 extremist-linked convictions which were prosecuted under violent crime or affray laws, for example, rather than terrorism legislation.
“I am identifying the cases that have been prosecuted since 2010 and I see an increase in offences and convictions,” said Miss Stuart.
“I would have expected to see 50 convictions overall at this point, but it is already nearly double that and I have yet to finish the research identifying all the cases.
“While there are more convictions they are generally at the lower end of the spectrum.”
Miss Stuart said prisons must make new efforts to combat Muslim radicalisation as dangerous radicals seek to take advantage of potential new recruits behind bars.
“We are going to see very ideological terrorism-related prisoners and that is potentially very dangerous,” she said.
“I don’t think the State has yet got to grips with deradicalisation in prisons.
“If an extremist inside jail is looking to radicalise people in jail they literally have a captive audience, who are already prone to not caring about breaking the law and are generally defiant.
“If people are being drawn towards the radical side I think we will potentially have a problem in our prisons.”
Figures published in February by the Ministry of Justice showed the number of Muslims in prison – for all types of offences – had more than doubled to 12,255 between 2004 and 2014.
It means one in seven inmates in England and Wales is Muslim.
Although the vast majority of Muslim prisoners will have been convicted of ordinary criminality rather than terror-related offences it is feared the huge pool of inmates presents radicals with wide-ranging opportunities to find new recruits.
Harry Fletcher, criminal justice director of Digital-Trust, which highlights cyber crime, said prisons would play an important role in dealing with radicalisation.
“It is a real concern that radicalisation is so prevalent both in prison and through online forums,” he said.
“It is a massive challenge for the Prison Service.
“Whoever wins the general election must address this as a priority.”