Press release

New Prisons Bill to block mobile phones

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

A Bill providing new powers to block mobile phone signals in prisons had its second reading in the House of Lords today.

The Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Bill has the backing of the Ministry of Justice and will enable Ministers across Britain to authorise Governors to use technology to detect and disrupt the use of phones in prisons. This will assist in reducing the intimidation of witnesses, disrupt the supply of drugs and contraband into prison, and impede criminal activity orchestrated by prisoners from their cells.

In 2011, over seven thousand illicit phones and SIM cards were found in prisons in England and Wales

The Prison Service has been trialling a range of mobile phone signal denial technology in a number of prisons. It has been working closely with mobile network operators and Ofcom to ensure that the equipment does not interfere with mobile phones outside prison walls.

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said:

‘We are determined to address the risks posed by mobile phones in prisons and we fully support this Bill.  The new technology to locate smuggled mobile devices or render them useless will play an important role in tackling illegal activity in prisons.

‘Prisons work hard to tackle the consequences of phones in prison but clearly the problem persists. This will be an invaluable tool to combat this serious issue.’

The Private Members Bill has been brought forward by Sir Paul Beresford in the House of Commons and Lord Laming 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. This Bill will:
    •    places interference with wireless telegraphy in prisons on a clear statutory footing;
    •    introduce statutory safeguards for members of the public and the mobile phone network operators;
    •    allow private and public prisons to better tackle mobile phones; and
    •    allow all prison operators to use the data collected by the equipment to investigate illegal use of mobile phones in prisons.
  4. For more details contact the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3510