Drugs are being smuggled into prisons using drones, the latest figures suggest.
A Freedom of Information request by news agency Press Association has revealed that the number of unmanned aircraft being used to take illegal substances and contraband into jails in England and Wales has risen steeply.
There were no incidents recorded involving drones in 2013 and only two in 2014. But in 2015, there were 33 incidents in which unmanned aircraft were discovered in and around prisons.
On at least six occasions the drones had been used to transport drugs and on other occasions they were found with mobile phones.
In December last year a drone was found containing drugs, USB cards and a mobile phone and charger at HMP Oakwood in the West Midlands.
In some of the incidents, the drone was never recovered but there had been reports from witnesses or one had been spotted on CCTV.
Perpetrators could face jail
New legislation means it is now against the law to land a drone within prison grounds. And anyone who uses a drone to smuggle items into prisons could end up behind bars themselves as they could be jailed for up to two years.
However, the use of drones is just one of the strategies adopted to smuggle drugs into prisons. The most common method is thought to be visitors with smugglers being reported as concealing illegal substances in their underwear and even in baby’s nappies.
In 2013/14, almost 300 visitors were arrested on suspicion of bringing drugs into English prison according to figures from the Centre of Social Justice.
And earlier this month, a man was jailed for 16 days after sending cannabis to his brother in prison by hiding it under postage stamps. Thirty-two-year-old Steven Ferguson, from Glasgow, concealed small quantities of the class B drug under the stamps between January and February last year.
But he was caught when the letters to Kilmarnock Prison were detected by a sniffer dog.
Drug testing is carried out in prisons in the UK to monitor the use of illegal substances by prisoners. Mandatory drug testing was introduced in 1996 and has led to a fall in cannabis and heroin use although some people argue this has led to more inmates taking legal highs which won’t be detected.
Of course drug testing isn’t just used by the prison service. Employers are also using workplace testing to check their staff aren’t abusing any illegal substances.
Some companies use random drug testing while others ask staff to take a test after an incident has taken place or as part of the recruitment process.