Police and prison staff will have more powers to stop inmates continuing a life of crime behind bars thanks to new measures tackling illegal mobile phone use.
The powers, introduced through the Serious Crime Act, mean prison governors will no longer have to physically find illegally held phones to stop their use.
Instead, once a number is identified they will be able to apply to the courts for a Telecommunications Restriction Order (TRO), meaning mobile networks can be instructed to blacklist the phone remotely, making it completely unusable.
Nearly 15,000 mobile phones and SIM cards were recovered in jails last year, with recent high profile cases linking behind bars criminality with drug dealing and smuggling guns into the UK.
Recent examples of criminals using phones in prison include Izzet Eren, who was being held on remand at HMP Wormwood Scrubs when he hatched an escape plot from his cells using a smuggled mobile phone.
The attempted breakout – during which Eren’s accomplice Jermaine Baker was shot dead by police – was foiled by officers and the prisoner sentenced to an additional five-and-a-half years.
Security Minister Ben Wallace said it was “totally unacceptable” for criminals to be carrying out crimes while locked up.
“Telecommunications Restriction Orders will give us the power to disconnect the phones prisoners use to continue orchestrating serious crimes while in jail,” he said.
“This government will act wherever necessary to cut crime and keep our communities safe – and to restore the public trust that is so vital to our justice system.”
The new powers will be overseen by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner who will examine the effectiveness of TROs by looking at a variety of indicators, including the number issued and the number of phones disconnected.
Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “We are determined to do all we can to prevent prisoners having access to mobile phones.
“We are stepping up measures to find and block them and empowering prison officers to take action. I am determined to make sure our prisons are safe and places of rehabilitation.”