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'Radicalisation in prison not the issue many believe'

Terror expert says some have overstated the case on jail extremism.

A peer and former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation believes the threat of radicalisation in prisons is actually lower than it is often perceived.

Lord Alex Carlile (pictured) said that despite high levels of conversations and radical chit chat in prison it is rarely acted on.

"The intelligence is there is quite a lot of radicalisation conversations in prison[…] but the reality is most people don't do anything about it when they get out," he told the London Assembly.

"Prisons are very boring places," he added, implying that some of the extremist talk is just to stave off such boredom. "The problems originating from prisons are less than you might think."

His comments contrast with those of other prominent individuals such as Chris Phillips, former head of the National Counter Terrorism Security Office.

Earlier this year Mr Phillips said that within the penal system “we have[…] a growing haystack of extremists where we still have to find the single needle that’s going to go off and do something really nasty, but we also have less people to look for them as well.”

Lord Carlile, a former president of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said that some young men are at risk from extremism in jail but that there had been some progress in stopping them reoffending and getting drawn into terrorism.

He added that the government was aware of the importance of the issue, and said: "I believe the level of intelligence on prisoners is quite high, this may have been brought in due to experience in Northern Ireland."

Elsewhere at the committee the Lib Dem peer said that following a conversation with new Justice Secretary Michael Gove, he believes the minister is "genuinely interested in prison reform," but added: "quite what he will do about it is another issue."