Scottish Prison Service to block mobile phones in jails

Trialling of a new ‘catcher’ technology has been taking place in two Scottish jails, HMP Shotts and Glenochill, which works by intercepting mobile phone signals through a fake mast.


HMP Shotts, one of the two prisons IMSI has been trialled in Scotland. Source: Geograph


IMSI-catchers are used in the United States and other countries by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It’s only been recently that there has been reported instances of it being used in the UK. Sky News carried out an investigation in 2015, where they found that IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) catchers were being used in London by the Metropolitan Police.



Once the mobile phone signal has been detected, the authorities are able to match it to an individual device, which can then be completely blocked by the mobile networks.
Source: Wikimedia Commons


The technology has been given the go-ahead by the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee, with Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, appearing before MSP’s stating that whilst the new regulations would not prevent mobiles getting into prisons, it would hinder the ability of criminals to communicate freely:


‘’The successful disabling of a mobile phone will put it beyond use and will seriously disrupt the activities of those individuals, including those involved in serious and organised crime who would seek to extend their criminal activity, threats or presence beyond the walls of our prisons.”


Matheson also revealed the scale to which mobile phones are being smuggled into Scottish prisons:


“Component parts such as SIM cards are easily concealed, while we may have been able to recover more than 1,500 mobile phones or component parts since 2013, more will escape detection.”


It is difficult for prison authorities to catch mobiles, parts of mobiles such as SIM cards, being smuggled in for inmates. Recently, a number of inmates at HMP Saughton Prison were able to send nude pictures of themselves on social media. Criminals are also able to use their mobile phones to intimidate witnesses or to continue organising drug dealing or violence while they are behind bars.


Holyrood’s Justice Committee agreed with the regulations after Mr Matheson said the changes would help make prisons safer, and to clampdown on organised crime.

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