Oral Question to Under-Secretary of State for Justice

18. Karl McCartney (Lincoln) (Con): What steps the Government are taking to stop the use of mobile phones in prisons. [907379]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Andrew Selous): We take this problem very seriously, stopping many mobile phones getting into prisons and finding those that do get in. We search prisoners, staff and visitors, we use X-ray and body scanners, CCTV and closed visits, and we deploy mobile phone blockers. We have also amended the Serious Crime Bill to enable the National Offender Management Service to instruct mobile phone companies to disconnect any phone that is found to be used within a prison. This Government have also increased the punishment for possessing an unauthorised mobile phone in prison.

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Karl McCartney: I thank the Minister for that answer. Ministry of Justice figures reveal that there have been 7,451 seizures of mobile phones and SIM cards in 2013 across the UK. Is there a difference in detection rates between establishments run by Her Majesty’s Prison Service and those run by private contractors, and if so, what can that be put down to?

Andrew Selous: I am not aware of any difference in the rates of detection between different prisons, but my hon. Friend is right to draw attention to this issue. We want to protect victims from being terrorised by prisoners from within prisons, and we also want to stop prisoners carrying on organising crimes from within prisons. That is why we take this issue so seriously. We are using blockers and we are now disconnecting. We will continue to focus on the matter.