Prisons: Unmanned Air Vehicles

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps his Department plans to take against (a) drone operators and (b) prisoners involved in receiving messages or contraband.

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

We are taking decisive steps to tackle the use of drones as a supply route for organised criminals to bring drugs and mobile phones into prisons. These drone operators can be prosecuted for offences related to conveyance of items into prison under the Prison Act 1952. Last year we launched Operation Trenton, a specialist team of police and Prison Service investigators, to work together to intercept drones and track down the criminals behind them.

On 26 October, following the largest investigation of its kind, an organised criminal gang of 15 were collectively sentenced to nearly 40 years in prison for using drones to drop drugs into several prisons. One member of the gang received a sentence of 10 years’ custody, the highest single sentence for drone-related activity to date.

Prisoners who break the law in prison should expect to be sanctioned according to the severity of the crime, with serious crimes being referred to the police for investigation. The maximum sentence that a court may impose will depend on the facts of the case and the offence the prisoner has been found guilty of committing. In respect of controlled drugs, for example, prisoners involved in their delivery may receive a sentence of up to 10 years’ custody and an unlimited fine.

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