Prisons could block mobile phone signals under new proposals

Mobile phone signals could be blocked in prisons under draft legislation put forward by a justice minister.

Sam Gyimah said it was the right way to deal with illegal mobile phone use “which is used to carry on criminal activity from behind bars”.

Tory former minister Esther McVey has a private member’s bill due before Parliament later this year which she said would “stop phone signals in prisons”.

When she pressed the minister on the move at Justice Questions, Mr Gyimah said: “I fully support her private member’s bill.

“I think it is the right thing we need to deal with illegal use of mobile phones, which is used to carry on criminal activity from behind bars.”

There have been numerous reports of the government preparing measures to enable wireless providers to jam signals of mobile phones used in jails. 

Figures from last year showed that nearly 15,000 handsets and Sim cards were recovered in prisons in England and Wales in 2015, equivalent to 40 every day.

This compared with 7,400 handsets and Sim cards seized in 2013 and 9,745 in 2014.

Tiny phones just a few centimetres tall are freely available for purchase on the internet and are relatively easy to smuggle into prisons.

Ms McVey’s Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Bill is due to get its second reading in Parliament in December.

She told the Commons a governor of a local prison had raised concerns over drones and illegal use of mobile phones.

“The two are linked together, as the mobile phones give greater frequency and accuracy for drone activity,” McVey said.

“So does the minister agree with me that the way to curb drone activity and stop illegal mobile phone use is to stop phone signals in prison?

“Will he support my Private Members Bill to do that, second reading on December 1?”

Details about how signals will be blocked were not available; suffice to say that converting every prison in England into a Faraday Cage would be an incredibly costly procedure.

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