Prisons have been granted new powers to remotely cut off prisoners phones.
The Serious Crime Act allows prison governors to instruct mobile networks to blacklist phones. Prison staff must produce the evidence that a number is being used behind bars to apply for a court sanctioned Telecommunications Restriction Order (TRO).
Prison officers already use a number of covert surveillance techniques to identify the use of mobile phones within prisons.
The Home Office said that nearly 15,000 mobile phones and SIM cards were recovered in jails last year. Recent high profile cases linked behind-bars criminality with drug dealing and smuggling guns into the UK.
In March of this year, a Mobile investigation into the types of phones smuggled into prisons found that a Galaxy S7 had supposedly appeared been confiscated for behind bars before it was released to the public.
Ministers praise powers
Security Minister Ben Wallace said the powers were a necessary step for the Government to take, he said: ’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 in England and Wales already use a number of covert techniques to identify which devices are being used within an institution. This information will then be supplied to police and law enforcement agencies so an application for a TRO can be made.’
The words were echoed by Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss: ‘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.
‘They will be overseen by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner who will examine the effectiveness of TROs by looking at a variety of indicators, including the number issued and the number of phones disconnected.’