Cocaine, heroin and knives rife in prisons

Cocaine and heroin have been seized hundreds of times in jails in England and Wales, official figures have revealed.

Prison guards seized hard drugs, knives and other contraband items in 2013, including in some of the country’s highest security prisons.

Figures released in Parliament earlier this week showed 80 seizures of cocaine, 210 of heroin and at least 62 knives.


But figures for knives could be higher as data was not available for a number of prisons.

Under current law, Class A drugs are treated the most seriously. Possession can result in a seven-year prison sentence while supplying them is punishable with life imprisonment. And both can also carry an unlimited fine.

“The amount of drugs and knives getting into our prison revealed by this data is alarming”, said Sadiq Khan, Labour’s shadow justice secretary.

“How can we possibly punish and reform criminals if contraband and weapons are circulating so freely in our jails?


“This needs a concerted effort by ministers to put a stop to this, but with all their cuts to prison staff and the increased overcrowding and violence on their watch in our prisons, I’ve not got much confidence they’re up to it.”

But justice minister Jeremy Wright insisted that the country’s prisons deployed robust search and security measures.

He said: “Prisoners found with prohibited items face swift and robust punishment. This can include having days added to their custody, being transferred to a different prison and losing privileges.”


The figures were released in response to a parliamentary question by Labour MP Jim Cunningham.

In February, a senior police officer urged the Government to hand out free heroin to addicts.

Mike Barton, Durham Chief Constable, said providing drugs to users would “take the money out of the business”.

Speaking on BBC news programme, Inside Out, he told viewers: “We should provide the heroin, the state should provide the heroin, and we take the 600 pounds out of the drug dealers’ pocket.”

Campaigners criticised Mr Barton’s comments, saying that he is “condoning” drug use.