A RECORD number of mobiles have been confiscated at a top security Scots jail – after bosses installed a system meant to block phone signals.
Staff at HMP Shotts, which houses many of Scotland’s most dangerous criminals, seized 73 mobiles this year, up on last year’s 72 and the highest of any jail north of the border.
The increase at Shotts happened despite the installation last year of signal-blocking technology believed to have cost tens of thousands of pounds.
Across all 17 prisons, the number of mobiles confiscated also went up, from 304 to 309.
Taxpayers’ groups said it appeared the money spent at Shotts had been wasted while the Scottish Tories said the public would be bemused by the number of mobiles still getting into prisons.
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, Clackmannanshire, did see a big reduction in mobiles seized, down from 44 to 26.
The next worst prison for mobile use last year was Edinburgh, up from 38 seized to 52. Searches at Glasgow’s Barlinnie jail yielded just 16 mobiles, exactly the same as last year.
HMP Grampian, which opened in 2014, saw an increase from 18 that year to 44 this year. Cornton Vale, Scotland’s only womens’ prison, saw mobile seizures drop from six to two.
Polmont, which houses young male offenders, saw a big increase from five last year to 18 this year, equalling the previous record number from 2010.
The same figures reveal that mobiles have been used on at least 414 known occasions to access Facebook accounts.
In a recent case, Scott Nesbitt, currently serving a life sentence for a murder in Glasgow, went on Facebook to boast about drug binges in his jail cell.
Earlier this year, another convicted killer, Stephen Nisbet, was found guilty of running a £1m heroin ring from inside his cell at HMP Edinburgh.
Eben Wilson of Taxpayer Scotland said: “We have to ask if the money spent on this blocking system has been wasted.
“Somebody needs to investigate quickly. It clearly isn’t making it impossible for prisoners to use mobile phones.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont 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 at Shotts 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 that we are still detecting and confiscating them.”
When asked about the effectiveness of the blackout technology at Shotts, he said: “We are still evaluating the technology.
“However, if phones don’t work then there is no point in the prisoners wanting to have them.
“It was quite expensive and extensive to install at the time, but it would not be appropriate to go into any more detail.”