Prisons: Locks and Keys

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 2nd March 2017.

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Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many incidents of lost keys have required the re-locking of prisons since May 2012; and what the cost of those incidents have been to the public purse.

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

Security is paramount within prisons and it is important that the risk of any potential key compromise is addressed as quickly as possible in order to protect the public. When a key/lock incident is reported an immediate investigation is undertaken to assess the risk and unless it is clear that security has not been compromised, locking mechanisms and keys will be replaced and/or other necessary remedial action will be taken.

Between 2005 and May 2010 there were 16 relocks which resulted in costs of £1,280,234.

In the period from May 2012 to Feb 2017 there were 6 full or partial relocks of prisons in England and Wales as a result of theft or loss of keys at a total cost of £192,420 to the taxpayer.


  1. The cost of a relock will depend upon the size of the prison establishment and on which keys have been lost or compromised. If a complete set of keys are lost, a full relock of the prison will be undertaken, whereas if a single key is lost only a partial relock will be needed, incurring a lower cost.
  2. Numbers of re-locks of private sector prisons are included in the above but costs of re-locks at private sector prisons are met in full by the private contractors operating the prisons at nil cost to the public purse and as such these costs are not included in the financial cost totals.
  3. Prisons are also responsible for re-locks of crown court cells. Figures exclude any numbers or costs of re-lock of cells in crown courts during the period.
  4. Figures include re-locks arising from loss of keys and where keys have been forcibly taken from staff.
  5. The figures quoted have been drawn from live administrative databases and may subsequently be amended. Due care is taken during processing and analysis, but the detail is subject to inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system.

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