Harborough’s MP calls for a ban on ‘prison phones’

Neil O'Brien MP with one of the tiny phones
Neil O'Brien MP with one of the tiny phones

Harborough MP Neil O’Brien has launched a campaign calling for a ban on the advertising of tiny so-called “prison phones”.

The phones, no bigger than a couple of 50p pieces, are routinely smuggled into prisons like Gartree, near Market Harborough, so prisoners can maintain contact with the outside world.

Miniature phones such as the Zanco tiny t1 are even advertised for sale on eBay and Amazon as “HMP phones” – a reference to Her Majesty’s Prison.

Others are sold specifically on their ability to go undetected by body scanners – used by prison officers to stop phones being smuggled in – under the slogan “Beat the BOSS”.

Neil O’Brien said: “I’m grateful to prison offers at Gartree for alerting me to this problem.

“These tiny phones are being used by inmates to continue their illicit activities from within prisons.

“It is important that we do not allow manufacturers and online retailers to add to what is already a growing problem for our highly dedicated prison officers.”

According to the BBC, an estimated 15,000 mobile phones were confiscated in HM Prisons last year.

Having been alerted to the problem phones by officers at Gartree, Neil raised the question in Parliament on Tuesday, November 13, and Minister Rory Stewart, who is responsible for prisons, responded.

The tiny phones being sold for smuggling into prison are so small that they have no other rationale apart from to defeat prison security, said Neil.

For example, the Zanco tiny t1 weighs 13 grams (less than half an ounce), is less than half the size of matchbox, and can store up to 300 contacts.

Neil said, “Large online retailers are profiting from a trade which is really aiding and abetting criminal activity. They should stop selling these phones. Whilst these phones can cost as little as £25 outside of prison, they can fetch up to £500 once inside, showing the value placed on being in possession of one. “

“These phones are too easy to find online through basic searches on platforms such as Amazon and Ebay, and this needs to change.”