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.