Press release

New Bill to dispose of illicit prisoner mobile phones and property

A Bill giving prisons new powers to destroy or dispose of unauthorised property found in the possession of prisoners received Royal Assent.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


A Bill giving prisons new powers to destroy or dispose of unauthorised property found in the possession of prisoners received Royal Assent today.

The Prisons (Property) Bill, backed by the Ministry of Justice, will allow Governors to destroy, recycle, sell or donate illicit mobile phones and other unauthorised items. Any proceeds will go to charities or other suitable organisations.

Currently there are approximately 41,000 confiscated mobile phones in storage, costing the Prison Service £20,000 per annum.

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said:

‘We are determined to address the problems caused by mobile phones and contraband in prisons - it is totally unacceptable that prisons have had to pay for storing these items after confiscation.

‘This Bill will give new powers to prison authorities so that they can dispose of mobile phones and unauthorised property in an appropriate and cost-effective way.’

The new powers will apply to items found in the possession of a prisoner or an escort vehicle.

The Private Members Bill has been brought forward by Stuart Andrew MP in the House of Commons and Lord Ramsbotham in the House of Lords.

Notes to editors:

  1. It is a criminal offence to take a mobile phone into a prison, possess a mobile phone in prison or, to transmit a signal from inside a prison. The offences carry a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.
  2. A comprehensive range of security and intelligence measures help locate and confiscate phones. This includes body orifice scanning (BOSS) chairs, mobile phone signal detectors, hand held metal detector wands and robust searches with specially trained dogs.
  3. Unauthorised property is that which a prisoner is not authorised, in accordance with Prison Rules or the Governor, to have in their possession. It includes items that are illegal to posses in the community such as illicit drugs and offensive weapons, and items that are illegal to possess in prisons such as mobile phones.
  4. The power applies to prisons, young offender institutions and secure training centres in England and Wales.
  5. The National Offender Management Service is currently looking at all options for disposal.
  6. For more details contact the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3510.
Published 28 February 2013