prisonEarlier this week, figures released by the Home Office highlighted that since 9/11, just 13% of those arrested under terrorism laws had been convicted of terror or terror related offences.

Of those arrested, 102 were convicted of terror offences and 94 were convicted on terror-related charges. From the total number of arrests 56% were not charged at all (although some have had further action taken against them on matters such as immigration for instance). At present, there are currently 125 terrorist prisoners in England and Wales of which 91% define themselves as Muslim.

But, as the headline suggests, this is not the complete picture. Start to play with these statistics and they make some interesting reading.

First off, the 91% figure applies to “terrorist/ extremist” prisoners (the category preferred by the Home Office – see ‘Notes’ below for an explanation of the Home Office’s categories) in England and Wales at 31 March 2008. In other words, 1 out of 10 were NOT Muslim.

Take this a little further and if you consider prisoners being held as “Historical Terrorist Cases” then only 50% of those being held are Muslim. Given that the figures do not include those convicted under terrorist charges that have since been released under the Belfast Agreement, the percentage that are Muslim should be far lower.

Extend this to those being held under the category “Domestic Extremist/ Separatist” and the Home Office data shows that NONE were Muslim.

Whilst not wanting to detract from the fact that prosecutions have ensued and that some heinous crimes have thankfully been averted, it is interesting that when terrorism and terrorists are spoken about in the public and political spaces, rarely is there any mention of the different categories that the Home Office use. And rarely (ever?) are there any policies, programmes and/ or initiatives to ‘Prevent’ these other types of terrorist/ extremist activity.

Whilst this post is obviously playing Devil’s Advocate especially given the relatively low numbers of “Historical Terrorist Cases” and “Domestic Extremist/ Separatists” being held in custody, it is interesting both in terms of how– ‘historical’ as opposed to ‘contemporary’ and ”Domestic’ opposed to what might be termed ‘non-Domestic’ for instance – and why the Home Office feel the need to differentiate between those committing acts of ‘terrorism’ when only one definition for the crime exists.

One can only speculate…

The full report from the Home Office can be downloaded by clicking here.

Notes and definitions from the Home Office report:

In Part I of the Terrorism Act 2000, ‘terrorism’ means the use or threat of action where:

(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and;
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.

(2) Action falls within this subsection if it:
(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or;
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.

It further states:
(3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection
(1)(b) is satisfied.

Groups of terrorists/extremists included in prison statistics…are:

Domestic extremists:
Domestic extremists are defined as individuals who belong to groups or causes that originate in the United Kingdom (although they may have international links) and are often associated with ‘single issue’ protestors who seek to further their cause through the committing of criminal offences. Some of these cases may not require the involvement of Police Counter Terrorism resources but may involve other specialist Criminal Justice resources. There are a wide spectrum of domestic extremist causes including extreme left- and right-wing groups, animal rights extremists and domestic (sometimes called ‘lone wolf’) bombers. Of those held in prison custody, the majority belong to extremist animal rights groups, members or associates of far right groups and domestic bombers.

Historical terrorist cases:
These individuals’ court cases predate the introduction of the Terrorism Acts. They were imprisoned pre-2001 following a terrorist investigation, acts of terrorism, or for membership of a proscribed terrorist organisation. They include convicted terrorists from the 1970s to 1990s for a range offences and who remain in prison custody on 31 March 2008. They include members of groups such as the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), Democratic Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Arabistan (DRMLA), and domestic bombers. It should be noted that a number of convicted terrorists, particularly Irish Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries, have been released either through completion of sentence or under the terms of the Belfast Agreement of 1998. These cases are not included in these figures.

Creative Commons License

This work by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Based on a work at


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