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Prisoners: Social Media and Mobile Phones

Volume 636: debated on Monday 26 February 2018

8. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Justice on monitoring crimes committed by prisoners via social media and mobile phones. (904000)

Prisoners’ illegal use of mobile phones enables their continued offending, threatens the safety and security of our prisons, and harms our communities. The Government have introduced legislation to disconnect mobile phones in prisons remotely; they have invested £2 million in mobile phone detection equipment; and the Ministry of Justice is working closely with mobile network operators to deliver cutting-edge technology to prevent mobile phones from being smuggled into prisons and then working.

I thank the Minister for her answer, but I have recently been dealing with two cases where violent partners have been running a campaign of threats and intimidation from within prison against their former partners, yet they are still up for parole. It does not seem that the police locally, who are investigating these crimes, are contacting the MOJ and the Prison Service to ensure that this is taken into account when these people are considered for parole.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. He will appreciate that I am not able to comment specifically on those cases, but I ask him to write to me about them so that we can see what further can be done. I want to emphasise that it is getting harder and harder for prisoners to get mobile phones into prisons and to then use them. Indeed, at least 150 phones have been disconnected since the telecommunications restriction regulations came into force.

We know that in December some 79 illegal mobile phones were seized as a result of joint operations between police and the Prison Service at HMP Hewell. What steps are being taken by the Home Office, police and crime commissioners and the Prison Service to set up proper protocols and systems for joint working between the police and the Prison Service? Obviously, illegal activity is taking place on the outside in order to get these phones in, as well as within the prisons.

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. Of course, as Chair of the Justice Committee he knows a great deal about this. More than 23,000 handsets and SIM cards were seized from prisons last year. The Government are investing £25 million to create a new security directorate in prisons and £14 million to transform our intelligence, search and disruption capabilities in prisons at the national, regional and local levels. That includes more than £3 million to establish serious organised crime units to deny offenders space to operate in prisons.