More than 2,000 mobiles found in jails

More than 2,000 mobile phones were found smuggled into the State’s prisons last year, it was revealed today.

Mountjoy ranked number one, with a massive 904 phones found stashed away by inmates, followed by Limerick at 309 and Wheatfield at 228.

And since the beginning of this year prison officers have discovered another 88 mobiles in the country’s jails, with 54 in Mountjoy alone.

Charlie Flanagan, Fine Gael justice spokesman, said the statistics showed prisoners were continuing to flout the law and accept smuggled contraband.

“These figures are an appalling indictment on the Minister for Justice,” Mr Flanagan said.

“It is a cause of grave concern that mobile phones can be easily smuggled into prisons.

“Clearly other contraband including drugs is being smuggled in a similar fashion.”

Some 2,174 phones were seized from the beginning of last year to January 17, including 88 so far this month, according to the figures obtained by Fine Gael.

Authorities launched a crackdown on prisoners using mobile phones in jails after armed robber John Daly contacted the Liveline phone-in show from his prison cell in the maximum security Portlaoise Prison in May 2007.

On the same day new legislation was passed making it an offence under the Prisons Act for an inmate, without the permission of the governor, to possess or use a mobile phone.

The subsequent clampdown saw prison authorities capture more than 1,300 phones from inmates, with the searches even uncovering two budgies smuggled through prison security.

Mr Flanagan said the number of criminals being found guilty of using phones in jail is tiny.

“The minister attempted to introduce signal blocking mechanisms two years ago which would have removed the incentive for criminals to even attempt to have phones smuggled into prisons,” he said.

“This attempt to prevent communication between criminals and their associates in the outside world has been an abject failure.”

A spokesman for Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said the large number of seizures showed detection measures were working.

“The fact that so many mobile phones have been seized underscores the effectiveness of the measures that have been put in place to prevent mobile phones getting into prisons,” he said.

“The most worrying fact would be if there was no seizures, which would then indicate that the measures stopping mobile phones weren’t working.

“It is preposterous to suggest that because there is a lot of mobile phones seized then the system isn’t working.It shows that it is actually working.”

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