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Ogarra Cohen Cramer


Drug Detection and Prisons

11th February 2019

The government has announced that drug detection scanners are being introduced at ten of the “most challenging” prisons. The technology will be used to detect drugs on clothes, paper and mail. It will be able to detect otherwise invisible traces of substances that have been soaked into clothes or letters in an attempt to bypass normal security.

The prisons in question are part of the “10 prisons project” and have struggled with acute problems including high drug use, violence and building issues.

The prisons in question are Hull, Humber, Leeds, Lindholme, Moorland, Wealstun, Nottingham, Ranby, Isis and Wormwood Scrubs.

The introduction of these scanners is the latest stage of the project, and various measures have already been implemented. This includes sniffer dogs, extra searching staff and specialist staff. X-ray scanners are also planned, and one has already been installed at HMP Leeds.


What will happen if drugs are found?

The staff have been trained in the handling and preservation of evidence, a positive result will lead to further investigation and could lead to sanctions for a prisoner or visitor and also possible criminal prosecution. Any intelligence obtained may be used to assist decisions on which prisoners or cells require further investigation. Sanctions could include closed visits.


What criminal offences could result?

It is a serious offence to bring, throw or otherwise convey (by post for example) any “List A” article into or out of prison. All controlled drugs are List A articles, and while it is an offence to take other items into prison, this article is concerned with drugs.

Drugs are a huge issue in prisons that are said to create a cycle of violence. In particular psychoactive substances can cause aggression, self-harm and trap prisoners in drug-debt.

The scanners and other measures aim to improve detection rates and enhance security procedures. Reducing the quantity of drugs in prisons should reduce the eve of violence and ultimately lead to more rehabilitation so, therefore, less re-offending.


What sentence can be imposed?

This offence is one that is so serious it can only be dealt with at the Crown Court, and custodial sentences are usually imposed, even for offenders of previous good character.

Examples of sentences imposed are; sixteen months for a small amount of cannabis, 28 months for small amounts of diamorphine, cocaine and cannabis, 4 months for Subutex.

It is also an offence for a prisoner to encourage someone to bring in drugs for him, in the case of R v Cousins 14 months imprisonment was imposed for incitement to supply in these circumstances.


How can we help?

We have vast experience of dealing with drug-related offences from the police station to representation at the Crown Court. To discuss any aspect of your case, please contact us on 0113 247 1477 or email us at