HM Prison Belmarsh

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HMP Belmarsh
2017 Thamesmead aerial view 02b.jpg
Aerial view of HM Prison Belmarsh (centre).
To the left is HMP Isis, to the right is HMP Thameside
London, SE28 0EB
Security classAdult Male/Category A
Population910 (as of July 2008)
Opened1991; 30 years ago (1991)
Managed byHM Prison Services
GovernorRob Davis OBE
WebsiteBelmarsh at

Her Majesty's Prison Belmarsh is a Category-A men's prison in Thamesmead, south-east London, England. It is run by Her Majesty's Prison Service.


Belmarsh Prison was built on part of the East site of the former Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, and became operational on 2 April 1991. Belmarsh is adjacent to and adjoins Woolwich Crown Court: it is used in high-profile cases, particularly those concerning national security.

Between 2001 and 2002, Belmarsh Prison was used to detain a number of people indefinitely without charge or trial under the provisions of the Part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, leading it to be called the "British version of Guantanamo Bay".[1] The law lords later ruled in A v Secretary of State for the Home Dept that such imprisonment was discriminatory and against the Human Rights Act.[2]

It is often used for the detention of prisoners for terrorist related offences. In September 2006 the number of such prisoners was 51.[3]

In May 2007, there was a violent disturbance in the prison, Sky News reported. At least four prison officers were injured.[4]

In 2009, an archaeological dig on site led to the discovery of a 6,000-year-old trackway in the prison, the second oldest known wooden trackway in Northern Europe after the Sweet Track near Glastonbury.[5]

In November 2009, an inspection report from Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons criticised the "extremely high" amount of force used to control inmates at the prison.[6] The report also stated that an unusually high number of prisoners had reported being intimidated or victimised by staff at Belmarsh.

In 2010, HMP Isis Young Offenders Institution was opened within the perimeter wall of Belmarsh Prison.

The prison today[edit]

Car park and main entrance

Belmarsh is a Category A Prison holding prisoners from all over the United Kingdom. In addition Belmarsh is a local prison, accepting different categories of prisoners from primarily the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) and Magistrates' Courts in South East London. It also serves Crown and Magistrates' Courts in South West Essex. Accommodation at the prison is a mixture of approximately 60% multi-occupancy cells and 40% single cells, distributed mainly across four residential units.

Inmates at Belmarsh are offered access to education, workshops, two gyms, one focusing on Physical Education courses and one recreational, with use of a sports hall and a fitness room. The gym staff also have a partnership with Charlton Athletic F.C. to deliver FA accredited coaching courses for prisoners.[7]

A listener scheme for prisoners at risk from suicide or self-harm is in operation at Belmarsh. There is also a support group for foreign national prisoners, providing advice on immigration law.

Notable inmates[edit]


  1. ^ "Belmarsh – Britain's Guantanamo Bay?". BBC. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  2. ^ "Data". The Times Online. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  3. ^ Tony McNulty Written Answers, 8 September 2006 col. 1701W Home Department – Terrorism
  4. ^ Staff hurt in jail disturbance | Metro News
  5. ^ Anon (12 August 2009). "London's earliest timber structure found during Belmarsh prison dig". News. Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2010.
  6. ^ "'High levels' of force at prison". BBC News. 27 November 2009. Retrieved 30 November 2009.
  7. ^ "CACT Over 25 Years". Retrieved 2 October 2020.
  8. ^ "Michael Adebolajo 'attacked in jail'". BBC News. 18 July 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  9. ^ "Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale plead not guilty to Woolwich". London Evening Standard. 27 September 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Abu Hamza: from Soho bouncer to hook-handed cleric of hate." The Daily Telegraph. 10 April 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  11. ^ Rebaza, Claudia; Arnaud Siad; Bianca Britton (13 April 2019). "British MPs urge government to extradite Julian Assange to Sweden". CNN. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  12. ^ "Radical preacher Anjem Choudary to stand trial on terror charges". BBC News. 28 August 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  13. ^ Dominic Casciani, 'Soho nail bomber David Copeland sentenced for prison attack', BBC News, 28 October 2015 [1]
  14. ^ "Richard Huckle filmed himself abusing children and shared videos and pictures with fellow paedophiles on the dark web". Sky News. 1 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Prolific Paedophile Gets 22 Life Sentences". Sky News.
  16. ^ Who was Usman Khan? The attacker who hoodwinked authorities to fulfil his terrorism dream of targeting London
  17. ^ "Ex-inmate MP condemns UK prisons". 12 August 2014 – via
  18. ^ Hill, Patrick (26 November 2016). "Serial killer Stephen Port's jail letters include boasts of bedding TV star". Daily Mirror.
  19. ^ Tate Modern attacker loses appeal against sentence

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°29′47″N 0°05′34″E / 51.4964°N 0.0929°E / 51.4964; 0.0929