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Prisons: Mobile Phones

Volume 651: debated on Tuesday 18 December 2018

Fundamentally, a mobile phone needs to be moved by a person, it is a metal object and it transmits, which means that the three ways of dealing with a mobile telephone are to get intelligence on the organised criminal gangs that are moving them around, to use metal detectors to discover the devices, and to use electronic measures to identify where the devices are located within prisons, to jam the signals and to interrogate the calls.

It has been reported that Anthony Russell, a contestant on “The X Factor”, used a mobile phone to communicate with a convicted prisoner by FaceTime from the ITV studios, of all places. Will the Minister consider making it a specific criminal offence for anyone knowingly to communicate with someone in the criminal justice system?

I am happy to sit down with my hon. Friend. It is absolutely a criminal offence to have a mobile telephone in prison, but the complexities of what my hon. Friend suggests go a long way beyond that. It is certainly not an offence to communicate with a prisoner. In fact, we encourage prisoners to continue family relations, which is important to prevent reoffending and protect the public.

While we of course do not want prisoners using mobile phones, we are happy for prisoners to watch television. The Minister knows that I am unhappy about his decision to buy televisions from China instead of from Cello in my constituency. Will he look again at the criteria for such public contracts?

This is a kind of debate between mobile televisions from another part of the world or mobile televisions from Bishop Auckland.

The hon. Lady powerfully represents her constituency’s interests. The issues around procurement are complex, but I will look carefully at the case. However, it is important to bear in mind that we also have a duty to get value for money for the taxpayer and ensure that we are purchasing affordable goods.