The Prison Media Bill 2023-24 is a Private Members Bill sponsored by Katherine Fletcher MP (Conservative). It is a Presentation Bill. The Bill received its first reading on 11 December 2023 and the text (alongside explanatory notes) was published on 20 February 2024. The Bill is due to receive its second reading on 23 February 2024.

The Bill would amend section 40D of the Prisons Act 1952. It would clarify current legislation relating to recording and uploading media from inside the prison, or of prison workers on prison land. For instance, the Bill would seek to close a loophole whereby it is not an offence for third parties outside a prison to knowingly upload an illegal recording from inside the prison.

The Bill has Government support. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has provided explanatory notes to the Bill.

Territorial extent

Provisions in the Bill would apply in England and Wales.


The Bill would introduce new terms to the Prison Act 1952. As detailed in the explanatory notes (PDF), Clause 2(3) of the Bill provides definitions of the following terms:

  • Prison land: “land vested in the Secretary of State, and other land in which the Secretary of State has an interest or which is occupied by the Secretary of State, for any purpose connected with the provision, running or management of the prison.”
    • For instance this includes land surrounding the prison walls, staff housing, or parking.
  • Prison worker: “a prison officer, prison custody officer, and other persons who (whether as a servant or agent of the Crown or otherwise) working the prison, or visit or attend at a prison for the purpose of the work (including voluntary work).” 


The Prison Act 1952, section 40D, defines certain offences relating to prison security. Here, the Act creates an offence of taking “a photograph, or [making] a sound-recording, or [transmitting], or [causing] to be transmitted, any image, sound or information from inside prison by electronic communications for simultaneous reception outside the prison”. The Act also specifies that it does not matter where the recording/photographing device is located.

Recent developments

A recent article in the Guardian reported the use of video recordings taken from inside prisons. However, the article also pointed out that these actions are offences already covered by section 40D of the 1952 Act.

The Government has recently tackled the issue of drones delivering illicit material such as phones or drugs to prisons and young offender institutions by introducing ‘no-fly zones’ of 400m around these estates.

What would the Bill do?

The Bill has three objectives, as detailed in the explanatory notes (PDF):

  • to clarify in statute the illegality of recording the inside of the prison from the outside (for instance, via drone)
  • to create a new offence of creating media of prison workers on prison land without authorisation
  • to close the “third-party uploader loophole” by making it an offence to upload unauthorised media of the inside of the prison, whether it was uploaded from the prison or the community.

The new offences would be punishable by an unlimited fine upon summary conviction.

Why is this change needed?

It is already an offence to create or transmit media from the inside of the prison without authorisation under the 1952 Act. The Ministry of Justice, however, has highlighted that the current legislation does not create an offence for people outside of the prison to create and/or upload media created inside of the prison or media of prison workers on prison land. The Bill intends to close this gap.

Additionally, it is currently not clear whether the Act covers unauthorised recordings taken by drones flying above prison land; or footage capturing the inside of an open prison.

The creation of the new offences is also likely to lead social media platforms to remove digital media in breach of these clauses, which would ensure the personal safety of prison staff and visitors as well as addressing security risks to the physical prison estate.

The Bill

The text of the Bill is published on the Bill’s webpage on The main provisions are contained in clauses 1 and 2.

Clause 1: Unauthorised photograph or sound-recording of the inside of the prison

Clause 1 would amend section 40D of the Prison Act 1952 to “put beyond doubt the illegality of creating unauthorised digital media of the inside of the prison from the outside, including via drone”, as explained in the notes accompanying the Bill (PDF).

Clause 2: Unauthorised photographs and sound-recordings of prisons and prison workers

This clause would create a new offence of creating unauthorised media (such as taking a photograph or filming) of a prison worker on prison land. The clause specifies that the creation of such media has to be intentional, therefore excluding instances where filming outside of the prison accidentally captures prison workers.

The clause would also create a defence of “reasonable belief” that the person creating the media had authorisation to do so.

Additionally, the clause would create an offence of uploading, without authorisation, digital media that:

  • was taken inside a prison; or
  • depicts the inside of the prison; or
  • captures a prison worker on prison land.

The clause establishes that breach of it would result, on conviction, in an unlimited fine.

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