Advertisement

Man accused of using drones to smuggle drugs and phones into prisons

Drones are banned from flying within 400 metres of prisons, including HMP Pentonville  (PA Archive)
Drones are banned from flying within 400 metres of prisons, including HMP Pentonville (PA Archive)

A man has been charged on suspicion of smuggling drugs and phones into prisons using drones.

Prison staff discovered a drone filled with cannabis, Pregablin, the drug spice and phones, which had crashed into HMP Pentonville in August 2023.

The Metropolitan Police linked the discovery to another drone that crashed inside HMP Coldingley, Surrey, just one month earlier which also transported drugs and phones.

They also linked the incident to crashed drones containing drugs and phones found at HMP Pentonville in September 2023, HMP High Down, Surrey, in November 2023 and HMP Swaleside, Kent, in January 2024.

Detective inspector Zara Baker said: “Smuggling drugs into prison is a serious crime.

A drone filled with cannabis, Pregablin, the drug spice and phones, crashed into HMP Pentonville in August 2023 (PA Archive)
A drone filled with cannabis, Pregablin, the drug spice and phones, crashed into HMP Pentonville in August 2023 (PA Archive)

“Illegal drugs massively increase the risk of violence towards staff and other inmates and ruins rehabilitation.

“As the public would expect, we are disrupting the supply of illegal drugs and have a number of methods to crack down on those who try and break the law.

“Anyone with information about those who profit from the misery caused by illegal drugs is asked to contact police or Crimestoppers.”

Met officers worked closely with counterparts at HM Prison Service and SEROCU (South East Regional Organised Crime Unit) and used forensic techniques and other tactics to identify the suspect.

Another drone crashed inside HMP Coldingley in Surrey (PA Archive)
Another drone crashed inside HMP Coldingley in Surrey (PA Archive)

It comes as “no-fly zones” have been introduced around prisons in England and Wales to stop drones being used to deliver drugs and contraband to inmates in January 2024.

The legal change means drone operators could face fines of up to £2,500 for flying within 400 metres of closed prisons or young offender institutions.

People caught smuggling items behind bars already face up to 10 years in prison.

Despite promises as far back as 2016 by then-justice secretary Liz Truss to create no-fly zones around prisons, before the change police were only able to act on drone sightings when there was evidence of contraband being illegally smuggled.

Prisons minister Edward Argar said at the time: “We are working harder than ever to prevent the smuggling of contraband into our prisons and this is the latest step to keep ahead of the tactics exploited by organised criminals.

“These new anti-drone measures – along with our advanced airport-style X-ray security and drug detection dogs – will crack down on those illicit items that fuel violence behind bars.”

In the Budget yesterday chancellor Jeremy Hunt also approved the police use of drones as first responders to the scene of emergencies.