A British man has been sentenced to five years in jail after attempting to deliver contraband to Liverpool prison using a drone.
Anthony Cheeney was caught after he crashed the drone, a Yuneec Typhoon H, close to HMP Liverpool back in August 2017. Merseyside Police officers recovered drugs, mobile phones and sim cards at the crash site.
Drone delivery has long been hyped as the end game for companies including Amazon and Uber. Both are looking to cash in once the technology is ironed out and regulations catch up with capability. In the meantime, it’s mainly life-saving medical delivery companies and criminals that are taking the lead.
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Constable Chris Cook said: “We are vigilant at all times to attempts to bring items into our prisons, and this and previous sentences should send a message to those who involve themselves in this kind of behaviour that they run the risk of being jailed for a significant time for criminal activity, which comes at high risk with low reward.
“The security of prisons is of paramount importance and any attempts to breach this security will be treated extremely seriously. Anyone attempting to bring contraband into a prison will be dealt with robustly to identify, not only those outside of the prison but also those inmates who seek to bypass the law.”
29-year-old Anthony Cheeney from Peter Rd #Walton has been jailed for 5 years for attempting to fly a drone containing prohibited items into @HMP_Liverpool. D/C Cook: "We are vigilant at all times to attempts to bring items into our prisons." Read more 👉 https://t.co/QErSpOBezA pic.twitter.com/YQy0Twf7kQ
— Merseyside Police (@MerseyPolice) February 6, 2019
Perspective on the threat of contraband by drone
Writing in Business Cloud, former UK prison governor Jarrod Kay explained that, while drones obviously pose a new challenge to officers whose aim it is to prevent contraband from entering prisons, “the threat being posed by the new technology is being overstated.”
“Let’s get one thing straight. Drugs in prisons are nothing new,” he said.
“Take a crossbow bolt and attach to it a length of dental floss, as long as you like. Insert the bolt into the bow and pick your window. During my 13- year career as a prison governor this was one of the more basic ways I have known dealers to get their drugs into prison.
For me, drones are no more effective than throwing a drug-packed tennis ball over the wall, or catapulting a stash haphazardly in the hope that it will land somewhere that the intended recipient can retrieve it.”
Kay also confirms what we already knew to be the case: that the media attention given to illegal drone deliveries is way out of proportion to their regularity compared with traditional smuggling methods.
“Each of these methods requires a prisoner to have open access to the grounds and to be able to secure the goods. This makes it much harder for the drugs to arrive at their destination. The reality is hiding drugs in a baby’s nappy or exchanging contraband during a kiss at visiting time is probably as effective as drones but it attracts only a fraction of the media space,” he said.
In October, seven members of a gang which used drones to fly more than half a million pound’s worth of drugs into prisons were jailed after an extensive police operation. It’s thought that the gang was responsible for 55 separate drone deliveries into prisons across the UK between April 2016 and June 2017.