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Grampian prison phones confiscated over misuse fears

By Kirsty Brown

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Hundreds of mobile phones sent to north east prisoners during the pandemic were seized after tampering concerns, it has emerged.

North east MSP Tess White obtained details of 280 mobile phone confiscations at HMP and YOI Grampian between July last year and August 2021.

The handsets were given to inmates after Covid-19 forced prison authorities to stop visits from loved ones.

But some prisoners quickly found they could replace the SIM cards and use them for drug deals and other criminal activity.

In answer to parliamentary questions from Ms White, Scottish Prison Service (SPS) interim chief executive Teresa Medhurst said a solution is “currently being implemented across the estate.”

Ms White said: “The SNP said these phones were tamper-proof and it took very little time for that to be proved wrong.

“They have allowed bullying and extortion to go on in the North East’s largest prison, and its young offenders unit and it has been left to the SPS to try to clean up their mess.

“Scottish Conservatives warned this would happen, but our concerns were dismissed out of hand by the SNP.”

She previously asked SNP justice secretary Keith Brown what discussions he had with the SPS about this tampering.

Although he had no answers for MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on September 15, he has now produced the following response from Teresa Medhurst:

“Whilst this is primarily an operational matter for the SPS, the SPS and Scottish Government have been in communication regarding the reported tampering of mobile phones used by individuals in custody and security measures in place.

“A solution was identified with the provider in relation to the concern of illicit SIM cards being used in prison issued mobile phones and it is currently being implemented across the prison estate.

“This solution enables the SPS to blacklist handsets on various network providers rendering the handsets unusable with a non-prison issued SIM. The security measures in place will continue to be monitored by the SPS.”

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