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Prisons: Mobile Phones

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 27th February 2017.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many phones and sim cards were recovered in prisons in each of the last seven years.

Photo of Sam Gyimah Sam Gyimah The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The illicit use of mobile phones undermines the safety and security of prison. Which is why we are taking urgent and decisive action.

Under measures introduced in late 2016, we can now apply for Telecommunications Restriction Orders at Court to block specific mobile phones being used in prisons. Since the legislation was introduced in August, we have had more than 150 mobile phones cut off.

In addition, we have announced new measures in the Prison and Courts Bill that will allow the Secretary of State to authorise mobile network operators to block illicit mobile phone signals across entire prison sites. This will allow industry experts to work more creatively and effectively to block signals and means that we won’t require a court order to stop the illicit and harmful use of mobile phones in prisons.

Data on confiscated phones has been collated since April 2010 and the data requested for the period April 2010 to December 2014 has been provided in response to PQ 20343, answered on 11 January 2016.

In 2015, there were 16,987 finds in all prisons. One ‘find’ may constitute a handset containing one SIM card or media card, a handset only, a SIM card only, or a media card or USB only. The figures used to provide this answer were drawn from live administrative data systems. Although care is taken when processing and analysing the returns, the detail collected is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system. The data are not subject to audit.

An enhanced incident reporting standard was implemented in October 2015 that allowed better recording of the number of mobile phones and SIM cards found as well as other information relevant to the incident. Data reported in IRS are underpinned by a technical note and are subjected to quality assurance, validation and scrutiny making them the most accurate source of data from the point the changes were implemented. For this reason, I have provided 2016 figures from IRS below. These figures are not are directly comparable with the figures provided for earlier years due to being recorded differently.

Incidents of mobile phones finds in prisons, England and Wales, 2016

Number of mobile phones

Number of incidents

1

6,964

2

895

3

300

4

177

5

94

6

70

7

42

8

35

9

14

10

20

11

13

12

24

13

7

14

4

15

7

16

1

17

0

18

2

19

0

20

6

More than 20

11

Unknown

127

Total Reported Incidents

8,813

Incidents of SIM card finds in prisons, England and Wales, 2016

Number of SIM cards

Number of incidents

1

2,983

2

439

3

195

4

106

5

60

6

49

7

24

8

26

9

8

10

22

11

6

12

16

13

6

14

6

15

8

16

2

17

5

18

1

19

0

20

2

More than 20

18

Unknown

85

Total Reported Incidents

4,067

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