Drones are increasingly being used to smuggle drugs and other contraband into Britain’s jails. So serious is the problem that the government has already slapped a two year jail term on anyone caught delivering illicit material in this way.
Smugglers have, over the years, used a number of ingenious methods to deliver drugs to prisoners, including lobbing them over walls stashed in tennis balls and catapulting large packets over fences, but the 21st century has offered a new high tech alternative: contraband is now being flown in by drones.
In one instance, a drone carrying drugs, a mobile phone charger, and USB cards was found by prison guards at HMP Oakwood near Wolverhampton last December, the Birmingham Mail has reported. The super-prison is the largest in the Midlands, with capacity for 1,600 prisoners.
Although still relatively rare, instances of drones being used have taken off with 33 such instances recorded in the last two years, up from none at all in 2013. Indeed, the drones pose such a threat to prison security that the government has already put in place laws outlawing the use of drones to smuggle illicit materials into jail.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman confirmed: “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.”
Prison officers have also raised concerns about the use of drones to smuggle packages in this way, and are calling on the government to allow for higher staffing levels to tackle the problem.
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.”