Today I spoke in Business Questions asking for a debate to be held in Government time on the issue of social media usage in prisons.
The issue of social media use in prison needs to be dealt with for the sake of victims and their families. The actions of the killers who brutally murdered 17-year-old Tavis Spencer Aitkens in Ipswich in 2018 show why something must be done. Every single one of these at some stage has posted on various social media platforms from behind bars.
Two of them are repeat offenders who have posted things such as their birthday celebrations on Facebook and snapchats to their friends from prison. One of these posts from Callum Plaats read ‘two years in, light work’.
The affect this is having on the family of Tavis is tremendous. No victims of violent crime or their family should have to be faced with criminals essentially breaking free from their prison walls to virtually torment them.
The fact that the same people are posting time and again proves that current in-house slap-on-the-wrist punishments do not work. I made clear today my view that future approaches need to involve sentences being looked at in order to actually deter these crimes from happening again.
This is why I have asked the Government for a debate on the the issue of social media use in prison which will include proposals about how we punish this crime going forward, particularly in terms of increased sentencing.
The Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, recognised how troubling and horribly sad this is for Tavis’ family and how it must so much rub salt into the wound. He explained that the Government continues to roll out its £100 million spending programme on prisons security during the pandemic which is funding mobile phone blocking technologies and portable detection equipment as well as on next generation body scanners.
In 2019 the Digital Media Investigations Unit worked with social media companies to remove nearly 400 illegal posts and accounts and by June 2020 had removed 220 accounts.
I appreciate what the Leader of the House said in terms of the advances they are making but ultimately, he didn’t address my question about sentencing which in my view is key to effectively deterring prisoners from committing this crime.
Jacob Rees-Mogg acknowledged that this won’t be much comfort to Tavis’ family and accepted that more needs to be done. I will be challenging him and the Government on what they mean when they say more needs to be done, to make sure there is a concrete solution to this problem