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No cellphones in cells, you slag! moots prison mobe zap law

Best hope you're not a PAYG user outside Pentonville

New legislation to be discussed in Parliament today will compel mobile phone networks to cut off the phones of criminals who use mobile phones in prison.

There is no onus on the Prison Service to prove a targeted phone is being used by a specific prisoner; the service will be able to apply to a court for it to be disconnected without needing to seize the phone.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The new legislation will take advantage of cutting-edge detection equipment that will allow prisons to identify unauthorised mobile phones and SIM cards being used within prisons.”

According to the MoJ, mobile operators wanted new laws in place before terminating phone accounts on the say-so of prison officials.

The new laws follow a research project to understand how prisoners used mobile phones.

The Offender Management Act 2007 made it a criminal offence to convey specific items, including mobile phones and associated equipment, into or out of a prison or to transmit sounds or images from within a prison. Prison visitors have to leave their phones at the door.

In March 2012 the Crime and Security Act 2010 also made it an offence, with a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine, to possess an unauthorised mobile phone within a prison.

The new rule comes as part of the government’s latest proposed amendment to the Serious Crime Bill and is motivated by illicit mobile phones being used for bullying and causing disorder within prisons, as well as being used by organised criminals to continue their illegal activities, such as running drug smuggling operations from behind bars.

Getting the mobile networks to switch off contraband phones is a new tool in the MoJ's armoury. Blocking technology and thorough searching processes such as body searches are already in use, as well as X-ray machines, metal detectors and CCTV surveillance cameras – not to mention body orifice scanners, which have already helped to increase seizures of contraband.

In 2013 a total of 7,451 seizures were made of illicit mobile phones or SIM cards in prisons, according to the MoJ. ®

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