Skip to main content

Prisons: Mobile Phones

Volume 507: debated on Tuesday 9 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many illicit mobile telephones with or without SIM cards detected in prisons in England and Wales were forwarded to the National Dog Technology Supply Group in the latest period for which figures are available; and what estimate he has made of the number of such telephones detected and not forwarded. (320859)

The Government are committed to reducing the number of mobile phones in prisons. We have already strengthened the law through the Offender Management Act 2007, which made it an offence with a penalty of up to two years' imprisonment to bring a mobile phone or component into a prison. We are also taking forward legislation through the Crime and Security Bill to criminalise the possession of devices, including mobile telephones within a prison without authorisation.

Prisons in England and Wales are instructed to send mobile phones and SIM cards found to a central unit and it is from this unit's records that this answer is based. The following table shows the total number of mobile phones and SIM cards that have been interrogated over the last 12 months.

The figures contained in the table have been drawn from administrative data systems. Although care is taken when processing data, the detail collected is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system. These data are not subject to audit.

The figures understate the actual number of finds, because they do not include items retained by the police for evidential purposes and phones not submitted for other reasons. It is not always appropriate to send phones to the central unit and some phones sent are not interrogated. These have not been included in these figures. NOMS is putting in place new procedures to improve the accuracy of these statistics.

Tackling mobile phones in prison presents substantial and increasing technological challenges, and while the numbers of phones found clearly indicates the scale of the challenge, it is also a reflection of prisons' increasing success in finding them and better reporting. The following table shows the number of mobile phones and SIM cards that have been received from each of the prisons over the last 12 months.

Mobile phones and SIM cards submitted to central unit, March 2009 to February 2010

Mobile

SIM

2009

March

304

323

Apr

363

357

May

353

377

June

407

396

July

376

425

August

476

393

September

355

345

October

386

373

November

399

337

December

350

325

2010

January

430

423

February

459

479

Total

4658

4553

Note:

Each mobile phone and SIM card is counted as a separate item.