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Sunday Mail Aug 3, 1997 (front page)

Exclusive by Lorna Hughes.

[picture of armed robber james holland with caption "TARGET ... armed robber james holland"]

Sinister 'church' targets Scots jailbirds

A SINISTER controversial cult is luring some of Scotland's most dangerous prison beasts.

Leaders of the cult are trying to sign up hardened cons in a sick bid to boost their numbers. Violent criminals and killers have already been recruited as devotees in a worldwide campaign.

Now one of the Church of Scientology's latest targets is hostage taker and armed robber James Holland, currently locked up in one of Scotland's toughest prisons.

But yesterday a top Government minister promised a full probe.

Scottish Prison Service chiefs are to be asked for a report.

And prisoners rights' campaigner described the move as "worrying."

<Page 5>


Bid to snare danger men

[Picture of prisoner James Holland doing v's up, caption is "TARGETED ... prisoner James Holland"]

A SINISTER cult is trying to recruit some of Scotlands's most dangerous prisoners.

The controversial Church of Scientology has contacted high-profile cons, including murderers and robbers, behind bars.

And yesterday prinsons minister Henry McLeish promised a full investigation into the "very worrying" situation.

A jail insider said: "They seem to think our prisons are fertile recruiting grounds."

Prisoners are being sent packages offering them correspondence courses in Scientology.

One of their first targets was double hostage taker and armed robber James Holland.

If he joins the cult's claimed eight million worldwide devotees, he will be a member alongside Hollywood starts John Travolta , Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

Critics say Scientology is a dangerous movement which uses brainwashing techniques on its followers.

It's thought Criminon UK, a branch of the Scientologists, have found the violent cons' names in newspaper reports.

The packages they are sent include copies of sect founder L Ron Hubbard's book, The Way to Happiness.

Holland, who is now in Glasgow's Barlinnie Jail after taking a prison officer and two women hostage, is understood to have received a letter earlier this month.

Criminon UK, run by Dutch lawyer Nico van den Berg, uses a post office box number in East Grinstead in West Sussex, where the Scientologists have their UK headquarters.


Van den Berg said yesterday three Scots inmates were already studying the course.

He added: "We are accepting applications from other inmates who want to sort out their lives."

Church of Scientology spokesman Graham Wilson claimed the cult had more success rehabilitating offenders then any other organisation.

He said: "Our success rate for rehabilitating offenders reduces fall back from the usual 80 per cent to as low as two per cent."

But Mr McLeish said he was alarmed about their new recruitment campaign.

"Prisoners have the right to correspond with who they wish," he said.

"But I am concerned about the Church of Scientology and its motives."

He said he would be asking Scottish Office officials and the Prison Service for a full report.

Prison reform groups are also concerned. Rhona Connolly, of the Scottish Association for the Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders said : "People in prisons are vulnerable and any additional pressure through this sort of sales pitch is worrying."

A High Court judge branded Scientology, dreamed up by late sci-fi writter Hubbard, "currupt, sinister and dangerous."

Earlier this year, the Sunday Mail revealed that the German secret service had the sect which has its Scottish headquarters in Edinburgh - under surveillance.

Dozens of former cult members have told how the sect cut them off from their families and brainwashed them.

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