11:02, November 01 50 0 theguardian.com

2018-11-01 11:02:05
Prisons are new frontline in fighting crime, says Gauke

Jails have emerged as a new frontline in fighting crime because advances in technology mean prison walls alone are no longer effective in stopping criminals, the justice secretary has told police chiefs.

David Gauke said organised gangs and networks were treating prisons as lucrative and captive markets to push drugs, mobile phones and other contraband, creating “a thriving illicit economy”.

Addressing the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) and National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), Gauke said there was a direct link between crime inside and outside prisons.

“I believe prisons have emerged as a new frontline in the fight against crime,” he said. “The fact is, new technology and sophisticated approaches mean that prison walls alone are no longer effective in stopping crime – inside or outside of prison.

“Offenders who commit crime in prison have a disruptive and often devastating impact on the prospects of those who are trying to turn their lives around and who see prison as a pivotal turning-point in their lives.”

Gauke said recent successes in fighting organised crime behind bars included a joint operation by prison intelligence officers and police that broke up an organised crime gang that used drones to smuggle £1.2m worth of drugs, weapons and mobile phones into prisons across the UK.

In the last few weeks, Gauke said, 15 members of the same gang received prison sentences of up to 10 years.

The justice secretary last month announced a new financial investigations unit, which will aim to identify and disrupt organised crime gangs in prisons. The government is also spending £70m to improve the safety and stability of prisons, including equipment such as x-ray scanners to stem the influx of the drugs fuelling much of the violence.

Earlier at the APCC and NPCC summit, the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said the UK was at risk of becoming a safe haven for organised criminals and terrorists under the government’s proposed terms to leave the European Union.

Abbott told the summit that Labour would vote down any deal that leaves the UK’s security and policing in a worse situation than before.

She warned that being outside Europol (the EU’s law enforcement agency), losing the use of the European arrest warrant and not having access to EU criminal databases would damage the UK’s ability to fight crime.

Abbott said: “Put simply, the government’s hard Brexit and its lack of progress on security matters contains a real risk that this country could become a safe haven for the terrorists, the Mafia-type criminals, the smugglers and the paedophiles on the run from the EU27. This is not a prospect either this country or the EU should contemplate.”

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