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Mobile phones to be cut off in jails

Mobile phones to be cut off in jails

  • 2015-01-05

Prisoners using mobile phones from behind bars will be cut off under plans to stop them running their criminal empires from their cells.

Ministers are to compel phone firms to act by law to disconnect the mobile numbers of handsets used in jails across the country.

It follows a warning from Home Secretary Theresa May that 7,000 known organised criminals are housed in jails, co-ordinating illegal activity in the outside world.

There were 7,451 mobile phones and SIM cards seized in 2013, according to latest figures.

However, they are likely to have been replaced by hundreds more smuggled in by visitors and possibly corrupt prison staff.

Mobile phone companies had previously insisted they would not act voluntarily and would require a change in the law to disconnect numbers tracked by prison officers. 

A memo written by Mrs May said: 'There are over 7,000 known organised criminals in prison in England and Wales.

'We know of cases of serious crimes including large drug imports, escapes and murders being organised from prison, enabled by illicit mobile phones,' the Sunday Times reported.

Being caught using a mobile phone in prison carries a sentence of up to two more years in jail and an unlimited fine.

Mrs May's memo added: 'The mobile network operators have told us they are unwilling to disconnect these phones unless compelled by law.'

For the last three years prison governors have been able to use specialist equipment to block or scramble phone signals to stop them being used by criminals.

But there have been complaints that installing the technology across all prisons would be 'prohibitively expensive'.

The National Offender Management Service estimates it would cost £300million to install the devices at every prison, with operating costs of £800,000 a year.

However, acting to disconnect specific numbers of illicit phones will cost around £300,000, with mobile firms £212,000 worse off.

Details of new powers will be unveiled tomorrow by ministers who insist it will 'significantly increase' their ability to tackle the problem.

Prisons will use new, cheaper technology to detect where mobile phones are being used and record their numbers.

Governors could then go to a county court with all the numbers from each prison and young offenders' institution and obtain a blacklisting order from the court.

It would mean there would be no need to find and seize the actual handsets from prisoners.

Prisons minister Andrew Selous said: 'We will never tolerate the use of mobile phones in prisons. This proposed new legislation will significantly increase our ability to tackle this problem.'

He added: 'By ordering a phone to be cut off once it is identified, we will be able to reassure victims and prevent further criminal activity faster and wider than ever before.(from Mail online)

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