Government gets powers to blacklist phones it thinks are being used by criminals behind bars
Prison inmates who run criminal operations using illegal mobile phones behind bars are being targeted by a string of new government powers.
It’s thought that around 15,000 mobile phones and SIM cards were used in prisons last year, with a number of cases linked to prisoners coordinating drug dealing and gun smuggling in the UK.
Now, however, police and prison officers have been given a range of new powers allowing them to cut off illegally used mobile devices and stop the criminal activities they’re aiding.
Thanks to these new measures introduced in the Serious Crime Act, prison governors no longer have to locate and confiscate illegally-used phones in prisons. And they don’t have to invest in expensive blocking technology either.
Instead, prison staff simply need to produce evidence showing that a certain mobile number is involved in illegal prison operations in a bid to get the phone cut off by network operators.
When the evidence has been shown and approved by the courts, the authorities can put forward a so-called telecommunications restriction order to ensure the phone is blacklisted and can’t be used again. This is done remotely.
There have been several cases in recent times involving illegal mobile phone use in prisons. For instance, an offender jailed for gun crimes concealed a handset to organise an escape, but this was uncovered by police. The prisoner has since been sentenced to 5 and a half more years behind bars.
Ben Wallace, the security minister, said in a statement: “Criminals are locked up to protect communities from their actions – so it is totally unacceptable for them to continue their life of crime behind bars.
“Telecommunications Restriction Orders will give us the power to disconnect the phones prisoners use to continue orchestrating serious crimes while in jail.
“This government will act wherever necessary to cut crime and keep our communities safe – and to restore the public trust that is so vital to our justice system.”
Prisons across the country are already using covert tactics to find devices being used by inmates. Once proven successful, information is presented to the police to move ahead with a TRO and criminal action.
Elizabeth Truss, justice secretary, explained: “We are determined to do all we can to prevent prisoners having access to mobile phones. We are stepping up measures to find and block them and empowering prison officers to take action.
“I am determined to make sure our prisons are safe and places of rehabilitation. The TROs will support the government’s commitment to drive down crime committed by criminals working on the inside and provide a speedier response to what has become an increasing threat within our prisons.
“In comparison to other techniques, including mobile phone blocking technology, TROs can be implemented without the need to physically obtain a handset before action can be taken.