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Kent prison officers to receive body-worn cameras while Home Office unveils plan to allow filming of police interviews

PUBLISHED: 12:12 25 October 2017

HMP Swaleside is part of the Sheppey prison complex.

HMP Swaleside is part of the Sheppey prison complex.

Archant

The Ministry of Justice announced a £3m investment to improve safety in jails earlier this week

Prison officers across Kent are to receive body-worn cameras as part of a £3m investment to improve safety in jails.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) revealed earlier this week it is investing £2m in 5,600 cameras, meaning every prison officer across the county and beyond will have access to the devices.

A further £1m is being invested in “police-style” handcuffs and restraints to reduce the need for staff to use physical holds to control aggressive prisoners.

Four prisons will also trial the use of incapacitant spray, similar to pepper spray, for dealing with violent offenders, though none of the Kent jails are among these

Prisons minister Sam Gyimah said the increased security measures will ensure officers have the right tools for the job.

“I am absolutely determined to tackle head-on the issues that undermine the safety and security of our prisons and to ensure our dedicated officers have the tools they need to do the job,” he said.

“That is why we have introduced a range of measures to boost security - bringing 300 sniffer dogs trained in detecting psychoactive substances and putting in place technology to block mobile phones.

“This latest investment underlines our commitment to transform our prisons into places of safety and should send a clear message to those intent on thwarting our efforts to make progress that we will do everything in our power to stop them.”

The MoJ said the cameras “will act as a visible deterrent against violence” and assist in prosecutions against those who commit crimes in jails.

Concerns over safety are particularly rife in Kent jails, with a report last year revealing some 69 per cent of prisoners admitted they had felt unsafe at some point during their time at HMP Swaleside.

Meanwhile, the Home Office has unveiled plans to allow police to use body-worn video to record interviews with suspects.

Officers can already use evidence captured by wearable cameras, and Kent Police recently hailed the technology as a major factor as complaints against the force fell by some 10 per cent.

Government chiefs say the changes will mean that, for the first time, cameras can be used for suspect interviews away from the police station setting.

It follows joint work between the Home Office and police to help maximise time spent on the frontline by officers and reduce unnecessary trips to and from police stations.

Policing minister Nick Hurd said: “Having met officers across England and Wales, I’ve seen how technology is bringing 21st century solutions to age-old policing problems.

“I want our police officers to have access to the best possible equipment, and to be able to use it to bring greater efficiency to frontline policing.

“We will keep looking for ways to save time and work more effectively, and we will do everything we can to support forces as they adapt for the future.”

As part of the new regulations, the Home Office is also strengthening the protections in place for interviewees and will require all interviews with suspects to be recorded when a working audio device is available.

The new plans set out in full suspects’ rights and entitlements and also include a definition of vulnerability, so that it is clear when interviews must be conducted with independent support for the suspect from an appropriate adult and, if one is requested, a solicitor.

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