The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is poised to spend as much as £7m on new software for a specialist team created to combat the smuggling of contraband into prisons using drones.
According to leading tech website Silicon.co.uk, the MoJ issued a prior information notice (PIN) on behalf of HM Prison and Probation Service asking for responses from IT suppliers on support for the squad.
Any resulting contract would be worth about £7m, according to the notice, although the MoJ has provided few details due to security reasons.
Back in April, a team was formed to investigate drones used in prison smuggling in an effort to track down those behind the trade.
Silicon noted that drones are increasingly used to smuggle drugs and mobile phones, as well as other prohibited items, into prisons, quoting prisons minister Sam Gyimah in April last year: “The threat posed by drones is clear, but our dedicated staff are committed to winning the fight against those who are attempting to thwart progress by wreaking havoc in establishments all over the country.”
The team consists of staff from police as well as HMPPS, who are tasked with gathering intelligence from across the UK and passing it to local forces and organised crime officers.
Silicon highlighted the recent case of a smuggling gang that used drones to fly contraband worth about £1m into jails as far apart as the West Midlands and Scotland.
One of the men convicted in the case was drone pilot Mervyn Foster, 36, who was jailed for six years and eight months. Foster was said to be the group’s main organiser outside prison.
The gang was convicted of carrying out 49 drone flights, but police said the actual number is likely to have been far higher.