herald

Tuesday 20 August 2019

'Flaming socks' used to drop coke and phones into jails by smugglers

Drugs being thrown over the perimeter wall of Wheatfield Prison, from adjacent waste ground.
Drugs being thrown over the perimeter wall of Wheatfield Prison, from adjacent waste ground.

Crime gangs have developed a bizarre new method to smuggle drugs and phones into Irish prisons.

The use of 'flaming socks' has become increasingly popular with criminals attempting to drop contraband into one Dublin jail in particular - with the practice being reported there several times in recent weeks.

The socks method works by burning a hole in security netting - designed to prevent 'throwovers' - inside the prison before the package then falls into the yard.

According to one source, it follows a crackdown on the use of drones, which had been used on a weekly basis.

There has been a spike in the use of drones over the past 18 months to transport illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin, phones and other items into the country's prisons.

"Criminals don't take long to adapt and now flaming socks are the latest way of getting contraband in," the source said.

Staff at Mountjoy Prison, where flaming socks have been used regularly, are now attempting to clamp down on this latest tactic.

The practice has been described as "sporadic" in previous years, but in recent weeks, it has become more popular.

Instructions

"Criminals on the outside, who are quite clearly acting on instructions from inmates, pack whatever they are attempting to smuggle; be it drugs, a phone or whatever illegal item," a source said.

"A substance like masking tape is used to stop the contraband from catching fire.

"It's then wrapped in a sock which is doused in petrol and set alight."

It is believed rocks or other heavy items are used to weigh the sock down.

The sock is then thrown over the wall and lands on the security netting, burning a hole in the net and dropping into the yard.

"It's a fairly basic method and has become increasingly popular and is quite effective," the source said.

Flaming tennis balls have also been used in a similar manner in the past.

The use of flaming socks is widespread in UK prisons, where they are used to allow for drones to pass through security netting.

The practice is thought to have originated at Leeds jail, but is now believed to be extensively used at prisons where netting is installed to stop illegal items being thrown over prison walls.

Meanwhile, prison officials across the country have also been clamping down on the use of drones to import drugs into jails.

In a single week in March, some 50 packs of drugs and other contraband were delivered by drone or thrown into Wheatfield Prison in Dublin.

Razor

In an 18-month period, six drones were recovered by the Irish Prison Service in locations around the country after failed attempts to drop contraband into jail yards.

In one attempt, drugs were stuffed into the plastic capsules used to hold small toys inside Kinder Surprise eggs.

One prisoner climbed up a steel fence in a bid to get them down, but he cut his hands on the razor wire.

He did not succeed in getting the package, which was later taken down by staff.

It is understood the efforts of prison staff to control the situation led to a confrontation in the yard.

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