New squad formed by Ministry of Justice in bid to tackle drone threat to prison security

A specialist squad of prison and police officers has been formed to tackle the threat posed by drones to prison security, Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah has announced. The team of investigators will work closely with national law enforcement agencies and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to inspect drones that have been recovered from prisons in a bid to identify and track down those involved in attempts to smuggle contraband.

Crucially, this new set-up will investigate the specific drones used by individuals around prisons. The latest crackdown is being orchestrated to help in disrupting the flow of drugs and mobile phones, which hinder attempts to create prisons that are places of safety and reform, and wherein offenders have the chance to turn their lives around.

Gyimah said: “We’re absolutely determined to tackle the illegal flow of drugs and mobile phones into our prisons and turn them into places of safety and reform. The threat posed by drones is clear, but our dedicated staff are committed to winning the fight against those who are attempting to thwart progress by wreaking havoc in establishments all over the country. My message to those who involve themselves in this type of criminal activity is clear: we will find you and put you behind bars.”

The newly-formed team of officers will contain staff from the police service and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service. Intelligence will be brought together from across prisons and the police service to identify lines of inquiry, which will then be passed to local forces and organised crime officers.

Longest sentence handed down

This announcement from the Government comes after a strong sentence was handed down on Friday 31 March. A joint operation between police and prison officers led to the arrest of Remo White-Channer and Romaine Gayle. The two were jailed for six years and six months and four years and four months respectively for attempting to flood prisons across Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Kent with contraband worth around £48,000.

As part of a crime group, White-Channer and Gayle used drones to try and fly packages containing cannabis, spice and heroin (as well as mobile phones) into three different prisons. The strong sentences send a clear message that those found flying drones into prisons will face significant time behind bars.

In December, Dean Rawley-Bell, aged 21, was jailed for four years and eight months after he used a drone in attempts to smuggle drugs and mobile phones into HMP Manchester.

In October, drug dealer Renelle Carlisle, 23, was jailed for three years and four months after he was caught outside HMP Risley in Warrington with a drone in his bag, trying to smuggle drugs inside.

Last July, 37 year-old Daniel Kelly was locked up for 14 months for trying to supply offenders at HMP Elmley and Swaleside in Sheppey, HMP Wandsworth in London and HMP The Mount in Hemel Hempstead with contraband.

Disrupting criminality in prisons

The new law enforcement squad is the latest step forward in the Government’s determined efforts to disrupt drugs and mobile phones in prisons.

Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss has secured funding for 2,500 extra front line prison officers, as well as introducing mandatory drug testing and the training of over 300 drug detection dogs to specifically detect psychoactive substances.

Further, the Government has made it a criminal offence to possess any psychoactive substance in a prison. This is an offence which is punishable by up to two years in jail.

Proposed changes to the Prisons and Courts Bill will make it easier for prisons to test offenders for emerging dangerous psychoactive substances, while all prisons have now been equipped with portable and fixed detectors to tackle mobile phone use.

A £3 million intelligence hub to fight gang crime behind bars has also been established by the Justice Secretary.

About the Author

Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications)

Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting.

In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector.

In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute’s George van Schalkwyk Award.

An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award.

Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site.

Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media.

Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014.

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