Phone detection kit introduced in prisons

Specialist mobile detection technology is being used to detect and seize illegal phones used by prisoners, Justice Secretary David Gauke revealed -Sunday, 21 April.

  • Justice Secretary announces new mobile detection technology in prisons
  • Will allow prison officers to pinpoint mobile phone signal down to precise cell
  • Part of wider efforts to reduce violence and drug use and restore stability to the prison estate

The technology is the latest weapon in the fight against phone smuggling which leads to drug-dealing and violence behind bars.

It works by sending real-time alerts when a mobile is detected in prison, shown on a digital heat map which identifies the strength of the signal. This allows prison officers to pinpoint the location of the phone down to the exact cell.

Staff can also track data over time to watch for patterns emerging, for example when inmates conspire to smuggle drugs into prison. This intelligence is analysed and in conjunction with law enforcement partners can lead to arrests.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said:

As criminals look for new ways to smuggle contraband into prisons, it is vital that we stay one step ahead, and this kind of technology will help prevent them operating from their cells.

This is vital to ensuring prisons are places of safety and rehabilitation, where offenders can turn their backs on crime for good.

Illicit use of phones in prisons to co-ordinate crime fuels high levels of violence as offenders vie for control of the internal market and enforce drug debts. Phones can also be used to terrorise victims and maintain outside criminal networks.

The technology is part of a wider multi-million-pound strategy to restore stability to prisons, with other measures including security scanners, improved searching techniques, phone-blocking technology and a financial crime unit to target the criminal kingpins operating in prisons.

Following a successful six-month trial of the latest technology in one prison, the technology is now in use in five across the country.

There is a direct link between crime on the wings and landings and crime in our towns and cities. Ensuring there is less crime in our prisons means less crime in communities.

Since January last year the Government has invested £70 million in safety, security and decency to help restore stability to the prison estate. On top of this, £14 million is being invested each year to stop criminal gangs smuggling drugs into prisons.

This has come against a backdrop of rising prison officer numbers, with more than 4,700 additional officers recruited since October 2016 and staffing levels at their highest since 2012.


Prisoner plotted £637K smash-and-grab raid from prison cell on smuggled phones

Market Cross Jewellers CCTV
Market Cross Jewellers CCTV

A prisoner has been convicted of joint enterprise in plotting two armed robberies from his jail cell by using illicit mobile phones.

Designer watches worth £637,000 were snatched in raids on Teesside branches of the Market Cross Jewellers in Yarm and Middlesbrough, and the shocking robberies were caught on CCTV.

Eight men from Manchester and Teesside admitted conspiracy to rob after the gang made crucial errors in executing their carefully-laid plans.

But Ian Ogden, 27, an inmate of Forest Bank Prison in Salford, denied being involved. He was convicted on Wednesday of two counts of conspiracy to rob following a trial at Teesside Crown Court.

The jury was shown dramatic images of both raids in which display cabinets were smashed, and a handgun was wielded in one robbery.

Ogden was almost 150 miles (240km) away in a cell in Liverpool when the smash-and-grab robberies were carried out.

But Richard Bennett, prosecuting, told the jury: “Ian Ogden may not have worn a mask or brandished a weapon but he was part of a criminal agreement to rob the two shops.”

The prosecution said he used illicit smuggled phones to link the Manchester and Teesside criminals during the planning and execution of the crimes.

Only one watch has been recovered out of the haul of stolen items.

Ogden and the other eight men, who admitted the charges, will be sentenced at a two-day hearing on a date to be arranged.

Prison smuggling drone use – up by 1550%

jaildroneDrones are being used to smuggle drugs, mobile phones and other banned items into prisons, it can be revealed.

Figures obtained through a Press Association Freedom of Information (FoI) request show that in 2013 none of the unmanned crafts were discovered in or around prisons in England and Wales.

But in 2014 this rose to two incidents, rocketing to 33 in 2015 – an increase of 1,550%.

Items discovered include just the drones themselves, drugs, mobile phones and chargers, and USB drives.

Mike Rolfe, national chairman elect of the Prison Officers Association (POA), said: “The use of drones to smuggle traditional drugs, NPS (legal highs) and mobiles phones into prisons is of serious concern to the POA.

“The POA have long pushed for increased staffing resource to tackle the security issue that drones present. The additional resource should be used to increase operational staffing within establishments, allowing for the recovery of parcels delivered to prisoners by drones through cell checks and prisoner searches.

“This includes pressing NOMS (National Offender Management Service) for measures to tackle drones such as ground patrols and secure windows on cells.

“The use of illicit mobiles phones allows for increased criminal activity and distress to victims and their families.

“The trafficking of illegal drugs and legal highs hampers rehabilitation breeding violence, bullying and gang culture. All of these issues are on the increase with the use of drones supporting this criminality.”

Prisons most affected by drone incidents between 2014 and 2015 were HMP Onley in Northamptonshire, topping the list with four, followed by Lindholme, Ranby and Swansea on three, and Bedford, Wandsworth and Manchester clocking two each.

Her Majesty’s prisons recording one occurrence include Leicester, The Mount, Whatton, Leeds, Eastwood Park, Liverpool, Norwich, Glen Parva, Huntercombe, Wormwood Scrubs, Full Sutton, Guys Marsh, Long Lartin, Bullingdon, Wealstun and Oakwood.

The Ministry of Justice said: “Incidents involving drones are rare, but we remain constantly vigilant to all new threats to prison security.

“We have introduced new legislation to further strengthen our powers, making it illegal to land a drone in prison or to use a drone to drop in psychoactive substances.

“Anyone found using drones in an attempt to get contraband into prisons can be punished with a sentence of up to two years.

“We take a zero tolerance approach to illicit material in prisons and work closely with the police and CPS to ensure those caught are prosecuted and face extra time behind bars.”

A report published in December by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons noted that illegal drugs, NPS and illicit medications may get into prisons in a number of ways – meaning it is not always possible to quantify exactly how many drugs are making it into prisons.

With supply routes differing from prison to prison, drugs have been discovered being thrown over fences in tennis balls, in large packages fired by catapults and being dropped by drones.

The report states that “easy access to illicit mobile telephones makes it possible to plan the drops carefully”.

Figures revealed by the FoI show that across the incidents at English prisons, drugs were discovered on at least six occasions, mobile phones more than nine times and a drone itself recovered in 19 instances.

One of the biggest finds listed a drone, drugs, mobile phone, a charger and USB cards being discovered in December last year at HMP Oakwood.

Below is a list of the number of times drones were discovered in and around English prisons over a three-year period, as well as a breakdown of the cargo the craft were carrying.

The freedom of information request sent to the Ministry of Justice reveals there was no drone activity reported in 2013, only two instances in 2014 and more than 33 in 2015.

Items discovered in or around the prison range from mobile phones and chargers to drugs and USB flash drives – other incidents have been recorded as either “unknown packages” or “miscellaneous”.

In their response, the Ministry of Justice states that “unknown packages” refers to an item which has been recovered as part of a suspected drone incident – with no specific information recorded on the contents.

And where “miscellaneous” has been recorded, this refers to a reported drone sighting in or around a prison. The MoJ states that where an incident has been listed as this or as drone only, they cannot know if the craft was being used for illegal purposes.

Here is a breakdown of drone incidents between 2013 and 2015, the location and items recovered.

:: April 2014

Ranby HMP – Mobile phones

:: June 2014

Ranby HMP – Drone, mobile phones

:: February 2015

Onley HMP – Unknown package

:: March 2015

Onley HMP – Unknown package

Onley HMP – Miscellaneous

Bedford HMP – Drone, unknown package

:: April 2015

Ranby HMP – Drone, drugs, mobile phones

Leicester HMP – Miscellaneous

:: May 2015

Lindholme HMP – Miscellaneous

:: June 2015

The Mount HMP – Drone, drugs

Swansea HMP – Drone, mobile phones

:: July 2015

Whatton HMP – Drone

Leeds HMP – Drone

:: August 2015

Eastwood Park HMP – Miscellaneous

Liverpool HMP – Drone

Norwich HMP and YOI – Drone

:: September 2015

Onley HMP – Drone and drugs

Glen Parva HMPYOI and RC – Miscellaneous

Lindholme HMP – Miscellaneous

:: October 2015

Lindholme HMP – Drone

Wandsworth HMP – Drone, unknown package

Wandsworth HMP – Miscellaneous

Swansea HMP – Miscellaneous

Bedford HMP – Drone, unknown package

Huntercombe HMP – Miscellaneous

Manchester HMP – Miscellaneous

Wormwood Scrubs HMP – Drone, drugs, mobile phones

Full Sutton HMP – Miscellaneous

:: November 2015

Swansea HMP – Miscellaneous

Manchester HMP – Drone, mobile phones

Guys Marsh HMP – Miscellaneous

Long Lartin HMP – Miscellaneous

:: December 2015

Bullingdon HMP – Drone, drugs, mobile phones

Wealstun HMP – Drone

Oakwood – Drone, drugs, mobile phone, charger, USB cards

Two prisoners film rap video on illicit mobile phone at HMP Birmingham

rapvideoTwo prisoners have filmed a rap video from behind bars at HMP Birmingham.

Demehl Thomas and Moysha Shepherd are thought to have captured footage of themselves on a banned mobile phone before it was uploaded on to the internet.

Bosses at HMP Birmingham have launched an investigation.

Thomas, 25, was serving a sentence for aggravated burglary but is believed to have been freed on licence earlier this year before being returned for breaching the terms of his release, according to the Sun.

By the time he was recalled in June he had compiled an album under the stage name Remtrex which was released on iTunes earlier this month, the newspaper said.

Shepherd, also 25, is serving a sentence for involvement in a plot to spring a criminal from a prison van in 2012.

The expletive-filled video shows the pair performing while dressed in black vests, taking it in turns to rap.

At one point Thomas says: “I want a mansion and I want my kids to live good. I don’t want to get locked up or killed in the hood.”

A second mobile phone appears to be charging in the background in the footage.

It is understood that the two do not share a cell and it is unclear in which room the film was shot.

Prison officials were said to have been tipped off last week but when the inmates’ cells were searched no mobile phone was found.

Birmingham Prison is a Victorian jail holding adult male inmates with a capacity of 1,450. It has been run by G4S since 2011.

The firm confirmed that mobile phones are banned.

Prison director Pete Small said:”Like every other prison in the country, it is a constant challenge to detect and seize contraband items such as mobile phones.

“Our prison custody officers are trained to look for contraband and we conduct regular and targeted cell searches to remove mobile phones, chargers and sim cards.

“In this instance, searches had already been carried out based on intelligence gathered and, as a result of the information received, further searches will be conducted.”

Figures show that in 2013 a total of 7,541 illicit mobile phones or sim cards were discovered in jails around the country.



Prison Officer spared jail over illicit prisoner affair

Kathryn Finch
Kathryn Finch

An Isle of Sheppey prison admin officer who had a secret relationship with a gangster serving life for murder has been spared jail.

Kathryn Finch, 37, enjoyed dozens of illicit phone conversations with Carl Gordon while she was employed as an clerk at HMP Swaleside in Eastchurch.

Former gym instructor Gordon, now 27, was locked up in 2006 after stabbing Michael Campbell, 21, in Turnham Green, west London after a row over a vandalised car.

During his time at the category B prison, Gordon joined forces with 58-year-old arms dealer Paul Alexander – who supplied weapons to the gang behind the murder of schoolboy Rhys Jones – to run an underworld gun ring from behind bars.

Gordon and Finch, of Bramley Way, Eastchurch, exchanged 25 phone calls and more than 60 text messages between April 13, 2011, and May 31, 2011 at Swaleside.

She admitted a single charge of unauthorised transmission of an image of sound by electronic communication from within a prison at Southwark Crown Court.

The mother-of-three has now been sentenced to 14 months’ imprisonment – suspended for two years.
Judge Peter Testar said Finch has a weak personality and was probably targeted by Gordon for “his own purposes”.
Catherine Rabaiotti, defending, said Finch was suffering from depression, anxiety and alcoholism.
Finch was also given a 12-month supervision order with activity requirements to attend a women’s group and undergo training or work.

Holloway Prison Officer Jailed

Jailed Prison Officer Sophia King-Chinnery
Jailed Prison Officer Sophia King-Chinnery

A prison officer has been jailed after she enjoyed a secret lesbian romance with an inmate serving life for murder in a Holloway Prison.

Sophia King-Chinnery, 25, embarked on a relationship with Sarah Anderson after she was locked up at the notorious jail in Parkhurst Road for a minimum of 15 years for stabbing a cyclist to death in the street.

They exchanged hundreds of love letters in which Anderson addressed the prison officer as her “wife”, Southwark Crown Court heard.

King-Chinnery also allowed the inmate to keep a mobile phone for eight months so the pair could spend hours chatting to each other.

But the convicted murder was left distraught after hearing rumours that King-Chinnery was cheating on her.

After being confronted by bosses King-Chinnery accepted she had an “emotional relationship” with her jailbird lover after experiencing difficulties with her colleagues, but letters between the two were said to “make clear” the relationship was sexual.

King-Chinnery, of Hook Rise South, Surbiton, Surrey, admitted to two counts of misconduct in a public office and sobbed after she was sentenced to 10 months in prison on Friday.

Sentencing, Judge Michael Gledhill QC told her: “The fact of the matter is you were a prison officer and from the moment you became a prison officer, you were well aware of the rules, which don’t include having any sort of personal relationship with the prisoners that you are supposed to be looking after.

“I’m aware you will have a much harder time than others when serving your sentence but you brought that on yourself.”

Prosecutor Andrew Howarth said: “Clearly the relationship went further than an emotional one.’

“The letters made clear the nature of the relationship between the two women was sexual.”

The judge gave Anderson a concurrent three-month prison term after she admitted to causing the transmission of a sound or image from prison.


A prison nurse has told a court she was attacked in a cell by a convicted rapist who threatened to kill her and her family if she told anybody.

Karen Cosford, 47, told Leeds Crown Court she felt “terrified” when inmate Brian McBride pushed her on to his bed in Wakefield Prison, West Yorkshire, and raped her.

She told the jury she did not report the attack because McBride made a number of threats, including saying he would post secretly recorded images of her on to a pay-per-view website and burn down her house with her family inside.

Cosford, who worked in the medical centre at the prison, is charged with having a sexual relationship with a prisoner.

The married prison worker, of Normanton, West Yorks, “grossly breached the trust placed in her” and compromised prison security by having sex with McBride, prosecutors have said.

She denies misconduct in a public office.

Cosford first met McBride, who worked as a cleaner at the medical centre where he was also an in-patient, in 2004 when she returned to work in the prison after maternity leave.

She said she had concerns about McBride and his familiarity with certain members of staff and told the court how prison governors would often chat to him in his cell.

Cosford, who gave her evidence in a quiet voice, often dabbing her eyes with a tissue, said McBride would tell her details about his life, including a sister who worked in the security industry and a period of time spent in the SAS.

She said he told her about gangland crimes he had witnessed, including seeing someone being fed to pigs.

Cosford described McBride as “believable” and said she never questioned anything he said.

“The impression I got was he was quite a trusted individual, always pleasant,” she said.

In March or April 2008, Cosford said McBride invited her into his cell on an evening when there was only one other member of staff on duty in the health centre.

She said: “I vaguely remember him putting his hand on my shoulder and telling me not to worry. I was starting to get a little bit panicky. I wasn’t comfortable with the situation.

“Then the next thing I remember happening was he pushed me from the back of my neck on to the bed. He spun me round, he ended up on top of me on the bottom of his bed.”

Cosford said McBride pulled down her trousers and raped her.

She said: “It was horrific. I was just terrified. I wanted to get out of there, I wanted it over with. I remember thinking he was going to kill me. I kept telling him to get off me.”

She said the attack lasted a few minutes and after he had let her go and she had shut and locked the door, he told her: “If I was a rapist, I would have continued.”

Cosford, who is 5ft 3in, said she did not fight McBride, described as towering over her, because “you do whatever you do just to survive the experience”.

She went home and did not tell her husband, who also worked at the prison, or make a complaint because she said she felt “humiliated” and “violated”.

She added: “I questioned myself as to whether I’d allowed it to happen. Whether I’d put myself in that position, would anybody ever believe me.”

When she next saw McBride at the prison, he said there was a secret camera in his stereo system and his sister had got images of her on film which she would put on a pay-per-view website, Cosford told the court.

She said he made it clear that he knew where she lived and which school her son went to and made threats against her and her family.

She said: “(He said) he would kill my family and my son in a fire if I ever opened my mouth.”

Cosford added: “I lived under constant fear that things would happen.”

She said McBride began calling her at home and on her mobile phone.

Cosford is also charged with failing to tell authorities McBride had a mobile phone and supplying him with mobile top-up vouchers. She denies both charges.

She told the jury she saw McBride with a mobile phone in his cell but did not report it because he showed her icons on the handset which he said were the pictures of her which would be put on the internet.

Cosford also told the jury she provided McBride with top-ups for the phone.

She said he told her it was for her benefit so he could speak to his sister by phone to prevent her from putting the pictures on the internet.

Three of Cosford’s medical centre colleagues also face various misconduct charges.

Carolyn Falloon, 50, of Wakefield, and Jacqueline Flynn, 46, from Pontefract, deny charges of failing to report the relationship and not reporting McBride’s mobile phone.

Falloon also denies supplying McBride with mobile top-ups and David Sunderland, 49, of Wakefield, denies not reporting McBride’s mobile phone.

The trial continues.


Prison governors should be able to sell mobile phones confiscated from inmates, an MP has proposed.

Criminals can currently ask for handsets seized in cell raids to be returned when they finish their sentences, in a situation branded “perverse and outrageous”.

Tory MP Stuart Andrew said: “Currently there is nothing in law giving any powers to governors to destroy property that prisoners should not have. As a result, astonishingly, any items seized have to be stored by governors and kept in safe-keeping for the duration of the prisoner’s term.”

On the other hand…..

Rescuers trying to get to a guard being held hostage at a maximum security prison were guided to him – by inmates with illegally held mobile phones.

The guard at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, South Carolina, was rescued nearly five hours after a group of inmates using homemade knives forced him into a cupboard.

Corrections Department spokesman Clark Newsom said one or more inmates using phones told officers where the guard was being held, and he was able to walk out of the prison with just cuts and bruises.