Mobile phone seizures soar among Saughton prisoners

Saughton's figures are the second worst in the country. Picture: Dan Phillips
Saughton's figures are the second worst in the country. Picture: Dan Phillips
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SAUGHTON is the second worst prison in the country for the number of mobile phones found on the premises.

The Capital jail saw the number of seized phones soar from 38 in 2014 to 52 this year.

The public is bemused at how easy it is to get mobile phones into a secure environment.

John Lamont

The figures were released in a Freedom of Information request.

Earlier this year, convicted killer Stephen Nisbet was found guilty of running a £1 million heroin ring from inside his cell at HMP Edinburgh.

The High Court in Glasgow heard how Nisbet, 40, used a secret stash of mobiles to arrange drug deals across Scotland from his cell.

Eben Wilson of Taxpayer Scotland called for action.

He said: “Somebody needs to investigate quickly.”

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said that he was concerned by the figures.

He said: “The public is rightly bemused at how seemingly easy it is to get mobile phones into what is supposed to be an absolutely secure environment.

“It’s worrying that hundreds of seizures have had to take place in recent years.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said: “The increase in mobile phone detection shows that there is effective use of targeted searching and dogs to uncover the devices. It would be foolish to assume that people are not still trying to traffick these items into prisons, but the increase in numbers shows we are still detecting and confiscating them.”

Staff at HMP Shotts, which houses many of Scotland’s most dangerous criminals, seized 73 mobiles, up on last year’s 72 and the highest of any jail north of the Border.

The increase in phones being seized at Shotts happened despite the installation last year of signal-blocking technology believed to have cost tens of thousands of pounds.

When asked about the effectiveness of mobile phone blocking technology at Shotts, the prison service spokesman said: “We are still evaluating the technology. It was quite expensive and extensive to install at the time, but it would not be appropriate to go into any more detail.”

Searches at Glasgow’s Barlinnie jail yielded just 16 mobiles, exactly the same as last year.

Across all 17 prisons, the number of mobiles confiscated went up from 304 to 309.

Taxpayers’ groups said it appeared the money spent at Shotts had been wasted.

Mobiles are highly valued by prisoners and have been used to run drug rings, brag about life behind bars and torment victims on social media.

The latest figures, obtained by the Scottish Conservatives under the Freedom of Information Act, show the only other prison to trial phone-blocking – Glenochil in Clackmannanshire – did see a big reduction in mobiles seized, down from 44 to 26.

HMP Grampian, which opened in 2014, saw an increase from 18 to 44.