Page last updated at 11:12 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Prisoner Facebook pages removed after victim taunts

Jack Straw speaking to BBC's Interactive Reporter Anna Adams

Thirty Facebook pages have been taken down because prisoners were using them to taunt their victims, Justice Secretary Jack Straw has said.

Mr Straw was speaking after a meeting with victim campaigners to discuss prisoners using social networking sites to taunt families.

They will look at ways to stop inmates using smuggled mobile phones to access webpages and abuse their victims.

Mr Straw said the 30 offending pages had been removed within 48 hours.

He also said he was "reassured by the co-operation which we're receiving from Facebook" and said it was agreed a better system for policing websites was needed.

'Devious, manipulative people'

Facebook logo
Some prisoners use mobile phones to access Facebook accounts

"This is horrible, profoundly disturbing... and it's deeply offensive to public morality," he said.

Mr Straw met with Margaret and Barry Mizen, the parents of teenager Jimmy Mizen who was murdered at a bakery in south-east London in May 2008, and Richard Taylor, the father of 10-year-old schoolboy Damilola Taylor, who was killed in a north Peckham estate in November 2001.

Mr Mizen said the talks were "encouraging" but he wanted Facebook to be "more responsible".

He said: "I'm sure Facebook is a massive organisation and there's lots of money floating around. If you have to spend a bit more on monitoring, then you have just got to do it."

The Justice Secretary also met representatives from Facebook and Ofcom.

He said it might be possible to change the rules under which prisoners are freed on parole and temporary licence, to make it "explicit" that they cannot make use of sites in this way.

If material is considered to be causing harassment or distress, or constitutes illegal activity, Facebook's policy is to remove the offending account
Ministry of Justice

"We are getting much tougher about people smuggling telephones into prison and using them.

"I'm afraid we're dealing with crooks. Devious, manipulative people who actually have no respect for their own bodies so they push these mobile telephones into their body orifices."

Prisoner taunts

To combat this, visitors are made to sit on special chairs that scan people internally, he said.

Mr Straw also said there is evidence that the families of some prisoners have been involved in updating sites.

In one case, Nottingham gangster Colin Gunn said he could not wait to see fear in people's eyes when he got home.

The Boss Chair at HMP Woodhill

Gunn, who ordered the revenge killings of John and Joan Stirland at their bungalow in Lincolnshire, used Facebook to let his friends know what was on his mind.

Jade Braithwaite, 20, the killer of 16-year-old Ben Kinsella, used the same website to boast he was "down but not out".

He also said he wanted a remote control so he could "mute or delete people when I need to". Facebook later took down the offending page.

And prolific burglar Roy Boodle, 28, taunted detectives for 18 months saying he could not be caught, but was eventually jailed for three-and-a-half years.

All the major social networking sites have policies to remove material considered to cause harassment or distress.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said earlier: "We recognise it is deeply distressing for victims and their families and friends and we have made it clear to Facebook that we do not think it acceptable or appropriate for such profiles to remain active, something Facebook agrees with.

"If material is considered to be causing harassment or distress, or constitutes illegal activity, Facebook's policy is to remove the offending account."

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