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Islamist extremists ‘have taken control of top-security jails’


Guards at Britain’s most secure prison have “lost control” amid fears that radical extremists are bullying other inmates into converting to Islam, the Old Bailey has been told.

Prisoners are reported to be terrified of being sent to maximum security Belmarsh prison because of the atmosphere created by a growing number of radical Muslim inmates.

A barrister claimed the situation was so bad that inmates in the Thamesmead prison were being held in “lockdown” to try to stop the bullying.

The claims will fuel concerns about the extent of radicalisation in prisons. Justice Secretary Michael Gove has already ordered an inquiry into prison extremism in response to fears that a surge in the number of terrorist convictions has led to increasing Islamist influence in some jails.

Barrister Rupert Pardoe told an Old Bailey judge: “There is a sense that the prison authorities have lost control. Many defendants in my client’s situation are in total lockdown. There’s a degree of fear as to the need to conform to certain religious views in Belmarsh.”

Mr Pardoe was representing Lee Smith, a member of a smash-and-grab robbery gang, who refused to leave a prison van for an Old Bailey hearing in January. Mr Pardoe said a scared Smith believed he would be returned to HMP Thameside, where he had been held, instead of Belmarsh if he did not enter the court.

In December last year, Glyn Travis, assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, said: “We have concerns that Islamist extremists are deliberately getting custodial sentences in order to target vulnerable prisoners. They are often clever and well educated and can brainwash young people.”

The proportion of Muslim inmates at Belmarsh has risen sharply in the last five years to more than a quarter, thanks largely to terrorism convictions. Terrorists are usually held


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