MP again criticises ‘slap on wrist’ penalties for social media use in jail

PUBLISHED: 15:52 03 November 2020 | UPDATED: 16:45 03 November 2020

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt in parliament  Picture: PARLIAMENT LIVE TV

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt in parliament Picture: PARLIAMENT LIVE TV


Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has again called for action on the use of social media by prison inmates.

Mr Hunt raised the subject during a Commons discussion about re-offending on Tuesday.

During questions to the justice secretary, Mr Hunt said: “Social media use in prisons essentially amounts to prisoners re-offending before they’ve even been let out.

“I think it sends a very poor message about our criminal justice system and could actually lead to more offending.”

Mr Hunt asked Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, to commit to ensuring offenders were robustly punished and could be hit with increased sentences, rather than “in-house slap on the wrist punishments”.

Mr Hunt has raised the issue on previous occasions following what he called “appalling” posts from the killers of Ipswich teenager Tavis Spencer-Aitkens.

In February, he met the prisons minister to discuss his concerns and was told £100million was to be spent preventing contraband in prison, including on phone detection and blocking technology.

Mr Buckland said: “Prisoners who break the rules should face consequences, and the internal adjudication system allows the removal of privileges, stoppage of earnings and confinement to cells. More serious breaches can be referred to the independent adjudicator. Some cases are clearly so serious that governors will, and continue to refer those matters to the police.”

Earlier, the Mr Buckland was asked what steps his department was taking to reduce re-offending.

Last week, figures revealed the average re-offender in Ipswich had almost 22 previous offences and would typically go on to commit another 5.6 crimes.

According to Ministry of Justice statistics, Ipswich had a higher than average rate of re-offending for adults and juveniles convicted or cautioned in 2018 with 34.5% of a cohort of 1,503 going on to commit an average of 5.6 offences, compared to 28.5% re-offending 4.01 times across England and Wales.

Each of the 519 Ipswich offenders had already committed a higher number of previous offences (21.75) than on average across England and Wales (19.34) and were responsible for a total of 2,908 further offences.

Mr Buckland said the government was investing £20m in a Prison Leavers’ Project and would ensure new prisons had rehabilitation “at their heart”.

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