Boris Johnson today became the first prime minister in seven years to visit a prison as he launched a bold £100million plan to tackle drugs and weapons in the UK’s jails.
He visited HMP Leeds this afternoon and met with staff at the category B facility after pledging to roll out airport-style X-ray scanners, metal detectors and mobile phone blockers to stop criminals operating.
There has been intense concern about the ease with which prisoners appear to be able to smuggle narcotics in, as well as weapons and mobile phones – which allow them to communicate with their criminal networks on the outside.
He is believed to be the first premier to make an official prison visit since David Cameron toured Wormwood Scrubs in London in 2012.
The Victorian inner-city jail was one of the country’s most overcrowded when it was inspected two years ago.
During the 2017 inspection, 60 per cent of inmates at HMP Leeds reported that drugs were easy to get hold of in prison.
It is the latest law and order announcement in a series widely seen as setting out the scene for a potential general election in the autumn linked to Brexit.
Mr Johnson visited HMP Leeds this (pictured) afternoon and met with staff at the category B facility after launching his crackdown
Mugshot: The PM (pictured at HMP Leeds today) is pledging to roll out airport-style X-ray scanners, metal detectors and mobile phone blockers to stop criminals operating
He is believed to be the first premier to make an official prison visit since David Cameron toured Wormwood Scrubs in London in 2012 (pictured)
The security measures are designed to be rolled out to all jails. The X-ray scanners and the metal detectors will tackle drug smuggling, while advanced technology will block mobile phones to ensure gang bosses cannot run their operations or harass victims from inside.
Boris Johnson ‘believes UK can get a better Brexit deal at the eleventh hour because Ireland would be “f****d” by No Deal’
Boris Johnson believes the European Union will cave in and offer a new Brexitdeal at the eleventh hour because Ireland would be ‘f****d’ by a No Deal divorce, a Cabinet minister has claimed.
Mr Johnson and the EU are locked in a state of Brexit stalemate over the Irish border backstop with the Prime Minister adamant he will not agree to a deal which includes the controversial protocol.
But with the EU equally immovable in its insistence that the current divorce deal cannot be renegotiated and that inclusion of the backstop is non-negotiable a No Deal split appears a growing possibility.
However, many in the government are increasingly confident that Mr Johnson’s ‘do or die’ pledge to deliver Brexit with or without a deal by October 31 has hit home hard in Brussels.
They now believe the EU, faced with the prospect of a chaotic split on Halloween which would do significant damage to the Irish economy, will ultimately buckle.
One Cabinet minister told The Sun: ‘The EU will give us a better deal, because if they don’t Ireland is f****d. No Deal will destroy it.
The money will also help to fund technology to prevent corruption by prison staff who help offenders.
Mr Johnson said: ‘We cannot allow our prisons to become factories for making bad people worse. We will stop the drugs, weapons and the mobile phones coming in, so we can safeguard victims, protect staff, cut violence and make our prisons properly equipped to reform and rehabilitate. The public must see justice being done, punishment being served and feel protected.’
It is the latest in a series of law and order announcements designed to appeal to the Conservative Party’s grassroots and make it look tough on crime again.
In recent weeks, Mr Johnson has pledged to recruit 20,000 more police officers, expand stop-and-search powers, announced a review into sentencing and promised to spend £2.5billion creating 10,000 extra prison spaces.
He also pledged an extra £85million for the Crown Prosecution Service to improve capacity and manage caseloads, including clearing a backlog over the next two years.
It will further fuel speculation that Mr Johnson is preparing the ground for an early general election amid continuing deadlock in Parliament over Brexit.
A YouGov poll yesterday suggested the plans had gone down well with the public, who back stop-and-search 74 per cent to 14 per cent. Among Tory voters, it is 93 per cent, and 90 per cent among Brexit voters.
Labour and Lib Dem voters also back the move, with 61 per cent support from both parties.
Yesterday, Mr Johnson held a round-table meeting at Downing Street for leading figures in the criminal justice system to discuss his proposals, including Britain’s most senior police officer Cressida Dick.
Mr Johnson wants to clamp down on mobile phones which allow prisoners to communicate with their criminal networks on the outside
Mr Johnson talked with prison staff during his visit to HMP Leeds. There has been intense concern about the ease with which prisoners appear to be able to smuggle narcotics in to jails across the country
He told representatives from the police, victims’ services and other groups that ‘faster justice’ was required and cited pledges, including increasing jail capacity and employing more officers.
‘But no matter what we do with the criminal justice system, we also have to recognise that you cannot just arrest your way out of a problem,’ he added.
File photo of an airport-style body scanner
‘And I think all police officers, all representatives of the criminal justice system, will know that. You have to address the whole problem and, number one, you’ve got to stop young people becoming criminals, stop them getting on what used to be called the conveyor belt to crime, turn their lives around earlier, give them opportunities, hope and encouragement that they need.’
Others present included Home Secretary Priti Patel, Sir Brian Leveson, who served as the most senior criminal judge in England and Wales, and Solicitor General Michael Ellis QC. Discussing the 10,000 extra prison places on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland insisted the pledge was new.
It was first made in 2015 by former justice secretary Michael Gove, then by his successor Liz Truss in 2016 and was also in the 2017 snap election manifesto.
Responding to the charge that just 3,500 extra places had so far been delivered, Mr Buckland insisted there would be 13,500 extra places by the mid-2020s.
He said he would focus on the 8,700 inmates living in overcrowded jails, who would take up most of the extra spaces.
Asked if the announcements were a case of ‘Johnsonian spin’, Mr Buckland said: ‘He wants to see prison being used appropriately to its fullest effect to protect the public.’
He added: ‘This isn’t a system that should be based upon targets or numbers, it should be based upon the merits of individual cases and that’s what judges do up and down our country every day.’
Mr Johnson announced on Monday that rapists and murderers could spend longer in jail as he seeks to make punishments ‘truly fit the crime’.
He ordered an urgent review into sentencing – reporting direct to Downing Street.
It will focus on violent and sexual offenders, and look at whether changes in the law are needed to lock them up for longer by not letting them out part-way through a sentence.
The review will also consider how to break the cycle of repeat offenders, perhaps making them serve longer sentences.
The Prime Minister said that dangerous criminals must be taken off the streets as he promised to ‘come down hard’ on crime and restore public confidence in the justice system.