Page last updated at 20:18 GMT, Friday, 3 April 2009 21:18 UK

Prison 'wrong' to destroy phone

A prison illegally destroyed an inmate's mobile phone, the High Court has ruled in a move which could lead to "significant" compensation.

The £200 phone was confiscated from prisoner Mark Coleman, from Wood Green, north London, while he was at Wayland Prison near Thetford, Norfolk, in 2006.

It was then destroyed in a prison training exercise.

Mr Coleman is due to seek compensation. The Prison Service said it would be appealing against the decision.

Mrs Justice Dobbs said prisons must return possessions on release.

Girlfriend visit

The court heard that the phone was discovered on Mr Coleman after his girlfriend visited the prison.

It was immediately confiscated and Mr Coleman faced disciplinary action for breaching prison rules.

The court heard that mobile phones smuggled into prisons played a significant part in the problem of drug dealing behind bars.

Police checked Mr Coleman's phone for any relevant information and then destroyed it in a prison training exercise for drug detection dogs.

A convicted prisoner... retains all civil rights not taken away expressly or by way of necessary implication, including the right to ownership of property
Mrs Justice Dobbs

Mrs Justice Dobbs said prison authorities were entitled to confiscate banned items but they remained the property of the inmate and must be handed back on release.

She said: "A convicted prisoner, in spite of imprisonment, retains all civil rights not taken away expressly or by way of necessary implication, including the right to ownership of property."

The prison argued that it had a right to destroy the phone because it was of a "noxious or harmful" character.

Mrs Justice Dobbs said there was no evidence that Mr Coleman's phone had been brought into the prison by bodily concealment.

She gave the prison governor permission to appeal against the ruling.

The judge added that damage payments to ex-inmates could be "significant" if the appeal was lost.

Sam Grodzinski, appearing for Mr Coleman, said: "Complaints about the treatment of prisoners' property constitutes the single biggest category of complaints made to the Prisons Ombudsman."

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