Prison staff may have snooped on Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock’s phone

The Prison Service listened to MP Mike Hancock's phonecalls to prisoners
The Prison Service listened to MP Mike Hancock's phonecalls to prisoners

Why you should vote in next week’s local elections

Have your say

AN INQUIRY has been launched after the government admitted prison staff may have snooped on Mike Hancock’s private phone calls to inmates.

The MP for Portsmouth South is among 32 MPs who may have had their calls intercepted from 2006 until 2012, justice secretary Chris Grayling revealed in a letter.

It is not known how many calls were recorded, but Mr Hancock says he spoke to dozens of inmates in that time.

Some of the calls relate to issues including allegations of brutality and intimidation among prisoners.

Mr Hancock told The News: ‘It’s outrageous. I’m pleased to be told that they are now going to prevent it happening again.

‘It’s scandalous that MPs’ calls were included in these intercepts.

‘I hope the investigation shows that none of the people who talked to me suffered any repercussions.’

Mr Grayling revealed last week in a statement to the House of Commons that calls between prisoners and their MPs may have been recorded or listened to by prison staff.

In a letter to Mr Hancock, he said: ‘I regret to inform you our initial inquiry suggests that communications between prisoners and yourself have been intercepted and listened to.’

An independent investigation will be carried out by the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick.

Mr Grayling said: ‘This is a serious matter and I would like to start by apologising on behalf of my department for any interception of communications between a prisoner and their constituency MP.’

Prison rules say communications between prisoners and MPs must be treated as confidential.

The National Offender Management Service identified instances since 2006, when detailed audit records started, where calls between prisoners and MPs’ constituency and parliamentary offices had been set to record.

MPs’ numbers are supposed to be listed as confidential and are therefore not intercepted.

Mr Grayling said there is no evidence information from the calls was passed to anyone else and he did not believe it was part of a concerted attempt to monitor calls.

Since improvements to the system in 2012, only one MP identified on prison lists has had their calls with prisoners recorded and listened to.