Ministry of Justice wants to introduce new legislation to force phone networks to block phones if they are being used in prison establishments. The proposed amendment to the Serious Crime Bill, discussed in Parliament, would be introduced in prisons nationwide and would force phone networks to block mobile phones and SIM cards if they are being used in jail.
The taking of mobile phones, sound recording devices and cameras into a prison is banned under the Offender Management Act 2007 and a person commits an offence if they bring, throw or otherwise convey such items in or out of a prison by whatever means; cause another person to do so; leave any such item in any place (in or out of the prison) intending it to come into the possession of a prisoner or knowing a person to be a prisoner gives such am item to him/her.
According to recent Government figures, nearly 300 mobile phones and SIM cards were seized in Greater Manchester prisons in 2013 as follows: 165 in Forest Bank, in Salford, 111 in Buckley Hall, Rochdale, 12 at Strangeways in Manchester and one at Hindley, Wigan. A further 13 were found in Styal in Cheshire.
Prisons Minister Andrew Selous said:
“We will never tolerate the use of mobile phones in prisons and will continue to clamp down on their illicit use.
“Our range of tough security measures has already successfully seen the number of seizures increase, but this proposed new legislation will significantly increase our ability to tackle this problem.”
Some prisons have been testing special equipment which has the capability of blocking phone signals, however, concerns were raised this would prove too expensive.
If the new legislation is approved, cheaper devices would record the telephone numbers of phones used from within prisons. Once a phone number has been identified, the Prison Service will be able to apply to a court for it to be disconnected by the network provider without needing to seize the phone or prove it is being used by a specific prisoner.
Glyn Travis, spokesman for the Prison Officers’ Association, commented:
“Mobile phones in prisons are used to co-ordinate organised crime and for prisoners to have unchecked communication with people from outside.
“They’re also used to co-ordinate trafficking of contraband and to intimidate members of the public into paying debts.
“This will be one of the many steps needed to make prisons safe again and give the public confidence in them.”