Used Justice Questions today to again raise my campaign to end social media use in prison and call on the Justice Secretary to ensure prisoners found to have used social media in prison are punished robustly. As I’ve made clear at length in the House of Commons before on multiple occasions, the punishments available for this serious crime must include reviewing the sentences of those found guilty and adding years to their sentence for their harmful actions.
These posts are immensely distressing for victims and each time they appear they send out a poor message about our criminal justice system to prisoners and those who may be thinking about committing a crime. It’s clear that not enough of the prisoners responsible are brought to book, and when they are, the slap-on-the-wrist punishments handed out through prisons’ internal discipline processes aren’t a sufficient deterrent to stop it happening again. I understand that all those convicted for killing Tavis Spencer-Aitkens in Ipswich have now posted on social media. Clearly there is a sense this is something prisoners can get away with.
I remain in close contact with Tavis’s family to ensure this is put to an end in their case in particular. And I’ll keep raising this issue until victims don’t have to be anxious every time they check their phone and there are punishments with teeth in place including extended sentences. We must be unapologetic about putting our justice system on the side of victims and in saying that our prison system exists first and foremost to punish criminals.
Another appalling case of social media use in prison came to light earlier this month from one of the men convicted in connection with the brutal killing of Tavis Spencer-Aitkens in Ipswich. The latest was a Snapchat post by Kyreis Davies who clearly should never have had is sentence reduced earlier this year for Tavis’s murder. I understand that all 5 of the men responsible for Tavis’s death have now posted on social media since being locked up. And yesterday I raised in Parliament how this persistent criminal activity must be brought to an end during a general debate before the summer recess.
In these debates, MPs can raise any issues they want. And I felt this one couldn’t be left unmentioned, particularly given the unimaginable additional hurt these posts will have caused to Tavis’s family.
Social media posts from prison often feel like taunts to victims and their families. And they should not have to live with the fear and anxiety that perpetrators who did them harm may show up on social media on any given day.
During my speech I also detailed some of the other despicable cases of social media use by Tavis’s killers which have been brought to my attention since I was elected. Each time I have taken action, including by securing a meeting with the Prisons Minister to bring them to her attention directly. But this cannot be an issue where we play whack-a-mole every time these posts come to light. The current system of punishment for social media use in prison clearly isn’t robust enough to deter further cases. And I called on the Government yesterday to make the punishments much tougher to provide a strong and effective deterrent.
I hope the Government looks at this issue very closely over the coming months and I won’t stop raising it until we see an end to these disgraceful social media posts.
I’ve written again to the Prisons Minister after another one of the men responsible for the death of Tavis Spencer-Aitkens was found using social media behind bars. It’s now my understanding that all of those convicted in relation to Tavis’s death have posted on social media from prison in some form. This is a completely unacceptable state of affairs and cannot be allowed to continue. I’ve raised it before, including in a meeting with the Prisons Minister earlier this year and in the House of Commons. But despite the steps the Government is taking, this crime continues to happen.
The latest case involves Kyreis Davies who posed for a Snapchat post alongside another inmate. As well as asking the Prisons Minister to investigate this latest post and bring Davies to book, I’ve also written to senior management at Snapchat to call on them to act to take this account down immediately.
I said in the House of Commons last month that I shared the anger of many that Davies’s sentence was reduced from a minimum of 21 years to just 16 years on appeal. The decision was completely out of touch with what the majority of the public consider justice to be. I think many will feel that posting on social media behind bars will add yet more weight to the argument that Davies should not have had his sentence reduced at all.
I will not stop raising this issue until social media is out of our prisons, and victims, their families and our community don’t have to go through the anguish these posts cause.