During the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee meeting this week (Tuesday 30th October) John raised concerns about the possible impact upon those living near prisons when it considered a Legislative Consent Memorandum (LCM) on the Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Bill.
The LCM enjoyed cross-party support and, if enacted, would authorise interference with wireless telegraphy for the purpose of preventing, detecting or investigating the use of electronic communication devices in prisons.
There were 959 mobile phone handsets and more than 800 component parts were found in Scottish prisons in 2011, and it is expected that others have escaped detection. The Scottish Government argues that the measures in the Bill will provide an “additional tool” in limiting the extent to which prisoners can maintain their criminal lifestyle within prisons.
John, a Member of the Justice Committee, and questioned the Community Safety Minister, Roseanna Cunningham and her officials on various aspects of the proposal.
Speaking after John said;
“The Justice Committee was unanimous in recognising the need to avoid those imprisoned from continuing their criminal lifestyle from within our prisons by organising further crime or offences or intimidating witnesses, however, I am also keen to ensure than there is no unintended consequences for those residing immediately beside prisons such as the residents in and around Porterfield Prison, Inverness.
“We were told that this equipment is being ‘trialled’, that it is ‘technically challenging’ and there are issues of ‘leakage’ and for those reasons and others I sought clarity on a number of matters; would any interference affect tele-health/tele-care equipment such as the alarms used by our older people?; what happens to the ‘traffic data’ picked up by the equipment?; will a full privacy impact assessment’, as suggested by the Information Commissioner’s Office, be undertaken and, given that there has been no public consultation whatsoever on the proposals would the Scottish Government commit to consult the local community in Inverness prior to deploying this ‘interference’ equipment.’
“I do not feel that the issues I raised were adequately addressed in the Committee and I have written to the Minister to seek the appropriate assurances that residents will not suffer problems with their mobile phones and that the health of those who rely on technical equipment will also be unaffected.’