Smuggling prohibited items into custodial institutions during visits is a criminal offence. Any visitor caught doing so faces a maximum prison sentence of six months or a substantial fine. This relates to items such as mobile phones, tablet computers and tools, which are legal in the outside world but prohibited in the institutions as their use can compromise order and safety in the institution.
The new legislative proposal is an attempt to prevent the continuation of criminal activities from inside the institution.
Experience tells that despite strict monitoring and security checks, new methods are constantly being found to smuggle prohibited items into custodial institutions, such as placing mini-telephones inside tennis balls and throwing them over prison walls. Some people have even used drones to get items into prisons. For this reason, the new legislative proposal also includes introduction of prohibited items into institutions using such technical or other means.
Visitors can also bring in items that prisoners are in principle permitted to possess but that are subject to monitoring by the prison governor, such as letters. This enables the governor to check that no prohibited items are hidden in the envelope and that the letter contains no information about the conduct of criminal activities. This helps maintain order and security within the institution and prevent criminal activity, so it is vital that visitors follow the rules and allow prison governors to carry out their monitoring duties. Violation of these rules is a criminal offence.
Currently, only limited action can be taken against visitors caught trying to smuggle prohibited goods into these institutions. These visitors will be banned from entering the institution, although to get a conviction, it must be proved that the visitor was trying to assist an escape or other criminal activity. Simply bringing items such as mobile phones i.e. items that would seemingly not have the aim of assisting or conducting criminal activities is currently not a criminal offence.
Smuggling of illegal objects into a prison (such as drugs or weapons) is currently a criminal offence based on the Opium Act and the Weapons and Ammunition Act respectively.