Scottish Government
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Ban on prison mobiles

Ministers have taken the first step towards outlawing mobiles in prisons with the aim of preventing their use for drug dealing or the orchestration of criminal activities outside prison.

From next month, possession of a mobile phone or SIM card will become an offence as will attempting to pass these items to offenders in prison.

Intelligence information shows that mobile phones are commonly used within prisons:

  • for the continuation of criminal activities within the prison
  • to intimidate witnesses
  • to facilitate the supply of, and payment for, illegal drugs.

It also shows mobile phones can lead to bullying around their use.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, said:

"The Scottish Government is determined to get tough with those who try to continue criminal activities while in prison. Serving a prison sentence should not allow the Mr Bigs to continue their life of crime.

"The smuggling of mobile phones into prisons is becoming increasingly difficult to detect as the technology is becoming smaller. But the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) is committed to searching for them. By making possession a punishable offence we are showing that it will not be tolerated.

"These moves will also allow for the SPS to introduce technology to block the use of phones, now that their possession is illegal, toughening the position even further.

"And we will not stop there. We will create a further offence of using a mobile phone in prison with a tougher penalty of up to two years in prison when we bring forward the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill to parliament next year."

Alongside these moves, SPS also intends to introduce the use of signal blocking devices (mobile phone blockers) in prison grounds and the amendment to the rules will help the introduction of these devices.

Rule 5(1) of the Prison Rules provides a definition of 'prohibited article' for the purposes of the Rules. This does not at present include mobile phones. They are currently treated as unauthorised property given that prisoners are not authorised by the appropriate prison governor to keep them. Rule 5(1) of the Prison Rules is to be amended to specifically prohibit personal communication devices, including mobile phones.

Section 41 of the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989 makes it an offence to bring or introduce certain items into a prison without reasonable excuse. This means that if mobile phones are classed as prohibited articles in the Prison Rules then under section 41(1)(e) it would be an offence to bring mobile phones into a prison.

This amendment will have the immediate effect making it a criminal offence to possess or introduce a mobile 'phone or personal communication device into a prison.

There are also plans to use the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill to insert a provision into the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989 to create additional specific offences in relation to the introduction and use of personal communication devices in prisons offering a real deterrent to the smuggling of mobile phones into prisons by increasing the maximum penalty which could be imposed, (bringing Scotland into line with England and Wales).

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