The team of investigators will work closely with national law enforcement agencies and HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to inspect drones that have been recovered from prisons in a bid to identify and track down those involved in attempts to smuggle in contraband.
The latest crackdown will help disrupt the flow of drugs and mobile phones and follows recent successful convictions of a number of offenders, including two offenders whose collective sentence spans over a decade — the most significant to date, the UK Government said.
"We are absolutely determined to tackle the illegal flow of drugs and mobile phones into our prisons and turn them into places of safety and reform. 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," Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah said.
The newly-formed team of officers will contain staff from the police and HMPPS. They will bring together intelligence from across prisons and the police to identify lines of inquiry, which will then be passed to local police forces and organized crime officers.
This announcement comes after the longest sentence of this type was handed down on March 31. A joint operation between police and prison officers led to the arrest of Remo White-Channer and Romaine Gayle.
The two were jailed for six years and six months and four years and four months respectively for attempting to flood prisons across the southern England counties of Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Kent with contraband worth around US$61,000. As part of a crime group they used drones to try and fly packages containing cannabis, spice and heroin, as well as phones into three different prisons.
The new squad is the latest step in efforts to disrupt drugs and mobile phones in prisons. The Justice Secretary has secured funding for 2,500 extra frontline prison officers, as well as introducing mandatory drug testing and the training of over 300 drug detection dogs to specifically detect psychoactive substances.
The UK Government has made it a criminal offense to possess any psychoactive substance in a prison, an offense which is punishable by up to two years.