A PRISON officer has been dismissed after he was caught smuggling mobile phones to inmates in Edinburgh, The Scotsman has learned.
Kevin McBrierty was sacked on grounds of misconduct after his activities came to light during the summer, sources confirmed yesterday.
The discovery was a blow to the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), which has sought to restrict access to mobile handsets behind bars. The dismissal of Mr McBrierty comes after a lawyer, David Blair Wilson, 55, from Dunfermline, was jailed for four years for attempting to smuggle drugs and phones into the same prison in the capital.
A search of his Vauxhall car found phones, diazepam tablets worth up to £2,800 at inflated prison prices, cannabis resin with a prison value of £4,000 and other contraband items.
It is understood police have not investigated the allegations against Mr McBrierty.
Preventing access to mobile phones in prison has been a key issue for crime-fighting agencies.
Some prisoners use them to continue to direct criminal activity, including large drug deals, even after they have been sent to jail. Other inmates are bullied into holding sim cards and handsets for other prisoners.
The SPS has been looking at deploying phone jamming equipment at some prisons, as long as it does not affect the signal to neighbours, Such a move could cost up to £1 million per institution.
The contract for supplying phone jamming equipment is out to tender and will be installed at two, as yet unnamed, prisons. However, the latest revelation about phone smuggling has led to calls for the technology to be deployed more quickly.
Graeme Pearson MSP, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman, said: “This case reinforces the urgency for mobile phone blocking in all our prisons as soon as possible.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont MSP added: “I’m glad the Scottish Prison Service has taken strong action here, as we cannot have the staff being compromised like that.”
The SPS has already rolled out a successful scheme, Prisonwatch, where neighbours are asked to look out for suspicious activity, such as items being thrown over fences or walls.
The SPS does not comment on individual cases. However, details of misconduct allegations against staff and prisoners have been released through Freedom of Information.
Last month, it revealed 179 allegations of misconduct made against employees between July 2010 and 2012. Of those, 17 resulted in a recommended dismissal, while 90 led to a verbal or written warning.
The SPS said it does not tolerate misconduct by staff. A spokeswoman said: “Any allegation of misconduct is thoroughly investigated and disciplinary action taken where necessary.”