Cutting-edge technology will help Scotland ban mobile phones in prisons

Scottish Government ministers have taken the first step towards outlawing mobiles in prisons with the aim of preventing their use for drug dealing or the orchestration of criminal activities outside prison.

Dec 4, 2008
By Paul Jacques

Scottish Government ministers have taken the first step towards outlawing mobiles in prisons with the aim of preventing their use for drug dealing or the orchestration of criminal activities outside prison.

From next month, possession of a mobile phone or SIM card will become an offence, as will attempting to pass these items to offenders in prison.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) intends to use cutting-edge technology, including the use of signal blocking devices (which effectively disable mobile phones) in prison grounds, to help enforce the ban.

Hand-held mobile phone blockers and body orifice security scanners (‘BOSS chairs’) which can detect mobile phones being smuggled into prisons have already been introduced into prisons across England and Wales.

The BOSS chair is a non-intrusive scanning system designed to detect small metallic objects, such as mobile phones and weapons, concealed within body cavities, eliminating the need for manual body cavity searches.

It was initially trialled last year at Category A prison HMP Woodhill in Buckinghamshire before being rolled out to the remaining seven high-security prisons.

Deputy Governor at HMP Woodhill Rob Davis, explained: “The BOSS detects items which can be used by prisoners to assist in escapes, drug deals, concerted indiscipline and serious assaults on prisoners and staff.

“By preventing mobile phones and weapons from entering we hope to create a safer environment for both staff and prisoners.”

Intelligence information shows that mobile phones are commonly used within prisons:

•For the continuation of criminal activities within the prison.

•To intimidate witnesses.

•To facilitate the supply of, and payment for, illegal drugs.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, said: “The Scottish Government is determined to get tough with those who try to continue criminal activities while in prison. Serving a prison sentence should not allow the Mr Bigs to continue their life of crime.

“The smuggling of mobile phones into prisons is becoming increasingly difficult to detect as the technology is becoming smaller. But the SPS is committed to searching for them. By making possession a punishable offence we are showing that it will not be tolerated.

“These moves will also allow for the SPS to introduce technology to block the use of phones, now that their possession is illegal, toughening the position even further.

“And we will not stop there. We will create a further offence of using a mobile phone in prison with a tougher penalty of up to two years in prison when we bring forward the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill to parliament next year.”

There are also plans to use the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill to insert a provision into the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989 to create additional specific offences in relation to the introduction and use of personal communication devices in prisons, offering a real deterrent to the smuggling of mobile phones into prisons by increasing the maximum penalty which could be imposed, (bringing Scotland into line with England and Wales).

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