Although we are slightly relieved that no Communications Data Bill has been sneaked into the Queen's Speech, as originally threatened by the disgraced former Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, this Labour Government simply cannot resist producing some more useless and repetitive legislation, as a public relations diversion to hide their failure to control aspects of modern technology.
From Times Online
November 18, 2009
Queen's Speech: ban on mobile phones in jail
Richard Ford, Home Correspondent
Prisoners who are found with mobile phones while inside jails are to face prosecution under plans outlined in the Queen's Speech today.
The new criminal offence follows growing concern that some prisoners are continuing to run their criminal empires from within jails by using mobile phones.
It is currently against prison rules for inmates to possess mobile phones in prison.
The Prison Discipline Manual rules, under the Prison Service Order 2000 Adjudication procedures (.doc) , which came into force in 2006, already makes punishments available against any prisoner stupid enough to be caught with a mobile phone in their possession.
These can involve loss of visitor privileges etc. and the imposition of up to 42 days extra detention on top of the existing prison sentence, for each breach of the prison rules.
The new measure is to be included in a Crime and Security Bill ...
What for ?
This is ridiculous gesture politics which is presumably intended to allow the Labour government politicans and civil servants to "Pretend That They Are Doing Something", without actually devoting real resources to overcome the fundamental problem.
Have the NuLabour political commissars at the Ministry of Justice already forgotten their own Offender Management Act 2007 section 22. Conveyance of prohibited articles into or out of prison ?
This has been in force for less than 2 years and it amended the list of prohibited articles under the Prisons Act 1952, to specifically make it a criminal offence to "convey" or "leave ... intending it to come into the possession of a prisoner" or "give" a mobile phone to a prisoner without authorisation.
This already has a criminal penalty of up to 2 years in prison and / or a level 3 fine i.e. up to £1000.
SInce mobile phones are almost always found as a result of searches of cells and other areas without the physical presence of the prisoner, it is going to be very hard to prove that they are "In possession" of a particular illegal mobile phone ("it must have been planted").
Illegal Mobile Phones in Prisons is actually an area of public security and crime policy where there should be more state surveillance and control, not less !
This is certainly an area where if mobile phone intercept evidence was allowed to be used in a UK court, then prison gang leaders etc. could be convicted "out of their own mouths", without compromising any "national security" sources or methods.
Instead of wasting at least 2 billion pounds on retaining and snooping on innocent people's mobile phone etc. communications, why can this incompetent Government not spend a fraction of that in implementing proper mobile phone security measures at every prison in the UK ?
N.B. This needs to involve the installation of mobile phone pico-cells in prisons, rather than just crude attempts at "jamming", which would cause collateral damage to the surrounding urban areas in which many British prisons are located, and which would otherwise also affect 999 / 112 calls to the Emergency Services.
Her Majesty's Prison Wandsworth Independent Monitoring Board report 2008 - 2009 (.pdf), published in May 2009, which the Ministry of Justice have still not yet bothered (or dared) to reply to:
For the sixth year running we are asking for the implementation of an effective jamming system for mobile phones in prisons. The lack of a positive response from Government has resulted in an increasing use of mobile phones and a even more rapidly increasing market for drugs in prisons. (9.5)
• Mobile phones continue to provide the biggest challenge to Security. This year there were 371 occasions when phones were found compared to 307 in 2008. Associated mobile phones
paraphernalia were also found. These included sim cards, hands free kits, chargers, (some home made), battery packs and adapters. The vast majority found in cells but some through Visits.
• Also found during searches were illicit alcohol, DVDs, Digiboxes and a variety of weapons.
• Although the prison was in possession of a BOSS chair (for intimate searching of prisoners) this was hardly used during the reporting period. It is now broken and is under repair.
"HMP Wandsworth is a Victorian Category B Local male prison built in 1851. It is the largest prison in Europe. Certified normal accommodation (CNA) is 1086 and current operational capacity is 1665 ". Surely there should have been at least two Body Orifice Scanning System chairs installed ?
• For the past four years we have asked the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice to implement an effective jamming system to curtail the use of mobile phones. Effective jamming systems are now in place in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. The Government's response has been that they will consider this when funds are available. In the current economic climate this looks high unlikely and the increasing use of mobile phones and the drugs trade in prisons is a certainty
Areas of Concern
• The jamming of the use of mobile phones in the prison needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency
Similarly, the HMP Wormwood Scrubs Independent Monitoring Board report for 2008-2009 (.pdf) says
8. It is widely recognised that mobile phones are strongly linked to drug activity within prisons. The Board commends the efforts of wing staff and Security staff to search out mobile phones within the prison. However the problem remains. The Board has asked about the provision of mobile phone blockers but has been told that trials of different techniques are being undertaken at other establishments. What are the results of initiatives being trialled to block the use of mobile phones in prisons? What is the current national strategy for combating the mobile phone and drug culture in many prisons?
(bold text as per the original report)
There does not appear to be any viable coherent national strategy against the the "mobile phone and drug culture" in prisons.
Guess where the former Ministry of Justice junior Minister in charge of Prisons, who failed to respond to the pleas of Prison staff and Independent Monitoring Boards, regarding mobile phones in prisons has been promoted to ? Rt. Hon. David Hanson MP, is now the Minister of State for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing at the Home Office - we do not feel any safer as a result of his appointment !