'Deliveroo-style' drone service flying drugs direct to prisoners' cells

Prisoners can get drugs flown straight to their cell windows by drone in a "Deliveroo-style" ordering scheme, the Justice Secretary has revealed.

David Gauke also highlighted how some inmates deliberately breach their licence conditions after being released so they are returned to custody to smuggle in more illicit substances.

He said criminal gangs are exploiting the "captive market" behind bars to reap lucrative returns from the sale of drugs.

In particular the emergence of new psychoactive substances such as Spice have created a "perfect storm".

Mr Gauke set out how new technologies have empowered gangs to be more "sophisticated and brazen" in their smuggling methods.

He said: "Spice, and other drugs, ordered with a 'Deliveroo-style' responsiveness on tiny mobile phones from prison cells and delivered by drones direct to cell windows.

"The paint used in supposed children's drawings sent to their parents in prison laced with liquid psychoactive drugs, or the pages of fake legal letters purporting to be from a prisoner's solicitor soaked in drugs.

"Gangs engineering situations where a prisoner, who has been released from prison, deliberately breaches their licence conditions so they are sent back to smuggle in more drugs.

"Gangs enforcing control by using threats and violence towards prisoners, extorting their families and attempting to corrupt prison staff."

Giving his first major speech since his appointment in January, Mr Gauke said he had been "shocked and sickened" by videos of prisoners posted on social media which show the "terrifying" impact Spice can have.

In one example, two naked prisoners, believing they were dogs, were seen barking at and fighting each other with makeshift muzzles and leads around their necks

Many attacks on prison staff have been linked to Spice, Mr Gauke said, citing a case where an officer was "viciously" attacked with a table leg.

Under a drive to stem the flow of contraband, technology is being installed at 30 jails which will allow officers to quickly download data from illicit mobile phones seized from prisoners.

This will mean staff can access information on a device on the same day that it is seized rather than having to send it away to be processed - which can take months.

Mr Gauke said: "If a phone has details about an expected drone drop later that day, officers will be able to know where, how and when and can act on that intelligence and intercept it."

Authorities estimate there are around 6,500 prisoners with links to organised crime in England and Wales.

The Justice Secretary confirmed plans to look at whether an inmate's risk of directing crime behind bars should be taken into account when deciding their security categorisation.

Currently prisoners are located around the estate according to their sentence length and escape risk.

Mr Gauke also used the speech in central London to set out his vision for jails to be places of "humanity, hope and aspiration".

He said incentives could be used more effectively, such as by offering well-behaved prisoners extra contact time with family members using technology such as Skype.

Ministers are also looking at how the release on temporary licence scheme could be used to allow some inmates to leave prison daily to go to work, with close monitoring.

Mr Gauke said: "I know that incentives work, and I want to put them to work in our prisons.

"By doing that, our prisons will not only be safer, more secure and more decent, but will support prisoners to do the right thing and turn their back on crime for good."

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