In an effort to combat the smuggling of drugs and contraband into prisons, England and Wales are introducing new “no-fly zones” around correctional facilities, drones banned from flying near them. This legal change comes with the possibility of fines up to £2,500 for drone operators who fly within 400 meters of closed prisons or young offender institutions. Smugglers caught trying to deliver items to inmates are already liable to face up to 10 years in prison.
Long-Awaited No-Fly Zones
Although then-Justice Secretary Liz Truss promised to establish no-fly zones around prisons as far back as 2016, the ability to act on drone sightings limit to instances where there evidence of contraband smuggling.
The newly introduced restrictions, scheduled to take effect on January 25, will enable authorities to quickly identify suspicious drones, respond to suspected criminal activities, and bolster security by preventing unauthorized filming within prison premises.
Damian Hinds on the Matter
Prisons Minister Damian Hinds remarked, “This is the latest step in the war we are winning to stop drugs, weapons, and phones from getting into our prisons. These virtual ‘no-fly’ zones, along with our new airport-style X-ray scanners, mean we can better crack down on violence behind bars to keep both prisoners and staff safe from harm.”
Addressing the Drone Smuggling Issue
Between 2019 and 2021, more than 500 drones either spotted, intercepted, or seized around prisons in England and Wales. Since June 2016, police and prison staff have collaborated, leading to over 70 convictions. In May 2022, one drone smuggling attempt contained over £35,000 worth of drugs and mobile phones.
Legal Changes and Implementation
The legal adjustments made in secondary legislation under the powers outlined in the Air Navigation Order. This move demonstrates the commitment to enhancing security, reducing illegal activities within correctional facilities, and preventing the inflow of contraband through innovative means like drones.
This initiative highlights the evolving challenges authorities face in the age of technology, requiring proactive measures to maintain safety and security within the prison system.