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The Prisons (Property) Bill is a Private Members’ Bill which had its first reading on 20 June 2012 but was not published until 9 September. It had its second reading on 14 September 2012, and its committee stage on 7 November 2012, where it had cross party support and was not amended. It is due to have its report stage and third reading on 30 November 2012.

Stuart Andrew is the Member in charge of the Bill. It has government support, and the Ministry of Justice has provided Explanatory Notes.

Currently prison governors can confiscate unauthorised items such as mobile phones or alcohol. They also have the power to sell or otherwise dispose of unclaimed items of prisoners’ property. However, they do not have an express power to destroy prisoners’ property. In 2009 the High Court rejected the argument that governors had a common law power to do this. There was speculation at the time that this could lead to compensation claims from other prisoners whose property had been destroyed. The Government was given leave to appeal, but did not do so.

The result is that items which are confiscated must be stored by the prison authorities and may be returned to the prisoner on release. The cost of storing such property is met by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS).

The Bill would allow a governor or director of a prison to destroy unauthorised property found in prisons, or dispose of it in other ways including selling it.

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