Boris vows to roll out airport-style scanners to stop drugs in jail

PM launches war on drugs in jail: Boris Johnson vows to roll out airport-style scanners and mobile phone signal-blockers in £100m crackdown

  • Move is response to intense concerns about ease inmates can smuggle in drugs 
  • The security measures are designed to be rolled out to all jails, Mr Johnson said
  • Latest in a series of law and order announcements by the new Prime Minister 

Boris Johnson is set to unveil a £100million crackdown on crime in jails to prevent drugs and weapons being smuggled in.

The Prime Minister will pledge to roll out airport-style X-ray scanners, metal detectors and mobile phone blockers to stop criminals operating inside Britain’s jails.

There has been intense concern about the ease with which prisoners appear to be able to smuggle narcotics in, as well as weapons and mobile phones – which allow them to communicate with their criminal networks on the outside.

Boris Johnson with Met Commissioner Cressida Dick (left) and Youth Justice Board Adviser Roy Sefa-Attakora during a discussion on the criminal justice system at No10 yesterday 

The security measures are designed to be rolled out to all jails. The X-ray scanners and the metal detectors will tackle drug smuggling, while advanced technology will block mobile phones to ensure gang bosses cannot run their operations or harass victims from inside.

The money will also help to fund technology to prevent corruption by prison staff who help offenders.

Mr Johnson said: ‘We cannot allow our prisons to become factories for making bad people worse. We will stop the drugs, weapons and the mobile phones coming in, so we can safeguard victims, protect staff, cut violence and make our prisons properly equipped to reform and rehabilitate. The public must see justice being done, punishment being served and feel protected.’

It is the latest in a series of law and order announcements designed to appeal to the Conservative Party’s grassroots and make it look tough on crime again.

In recent weeks, Mr Johnson has pledged to recruit 20,000 more police officers, expand stop-and-search powers, announced a review into sentencing and promised to spend £2.5billion creating 10,000 extra prison spaces.

He also pledged an extra £85million for the Crown Prosecution Service to improve capacity and manage caseloads, including clearing a backlog over the next two years.

It will further fuel speculation that Mr Johnson is preparing the ground for an early general election amid continuing deadlock in Parliament over Brexit.

There has been intense concern about the ease with which prisoners appear to be able to smuggle narcotics in. Pictured is a file photo of an officer in a British prison 

A YouGov poll yesterday suggested the plans had gone down well with the public, who back stop-and-search 74 per cent to 14 per cent. Among Tory voters, it is 93 per cent, and 90 per cent among Brexit voters.

Labour and Lib Dem voters also back the move, with 61 per cent support from both parties.

Yesterday, Mr Johnson held a round-table meeting at Downing Street for leading figures in the criminal justice system to discuss his proposals, including Britain’s most senior police officer Cressida Dick.

He told representatives from the police, victims’ services and other groups that ‘faster justice’ was required and cited pledges, including increasing jail capacity and employing more officers.

‘But no matter what we do with the criminal justice system, we also have to recognise that you cannot just arrest your way out of a problem,’ he added.

‘And I think all police officers, all representatives of the criminal justice system, will know that. You have to address the whole problem and, number one, you’ve got to stop young people becoming criminals, stop them getting on what used to be called the conveyor belt to crime, turn their lives around earlier, give them opportunities, hope and encouragement that they need.’

Others present included Home Secretary Priti Patel, Sir Brian Leveson, who served as the most senior criminal judge in England and Wales, and Solicitor General Michael Ellis QC. Discussing the 10,000 extra prison places on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland insisted the pledge was new.

Others present at the roundtable event  on criminal justice included Home Secretary Priti Patel

It was first made in 2015 by former justice secretary Michael Gove, then by his successor Liz Truss in 2016 and was also in the 2017 snap election manifesto.

Responding to the charge that just 3,500 extra places had so far been delivered, Mr Buckland insisted there would be 13,500 extra places by the mid-2020s.

He said he would focus on the 8,700 inmates living in overcrowded jails, who would take up most of the extra spaces.

Asked if the announcements were a case of ‘Johnsonian spin’, Mr Buckland said: ‘He wants to see prison being used appropriately to its fullest effect to protect the public.’

He added: ‘This isn’t a system that should be based upon targets or numbers, it should be based upon the merits of individual cases and that’s what judges do up and down our country every day.’

Mr Johnson announced on Monday that rapists and murderers could spend longer in jail as he seeks to make punishments ‘truly fit the crime’.

He ordered an urgent review into sentencing – reporting direct to Downing Street.

It will focus on violent and sexual offenders, and look at whether changes in the law are needed to lock them up for longer by not letting them out part-way through a sentence.

The review will also consider how to break the cycle of repeat offenders, perhaps making them serve longer sentences.

The Prime Minister said that dangerous criminals must be taken off the streets as he promised to ‘come down hard’ on crime and restore public confidence in the justice system.

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