UK government discusses banning tiny phones favoured by prisoners

The UK government is looking at banning key fob mobile phones to prevent them finding their way into prisons across the country.

A spokesperson for the government told the BBC that they are discussing whether to ban the sale of the devices that closely resemble car key fobs and have the full functionality of a mobile phone.

Discussions between the government, National Trading Standards Board [NTSB], and Serious Organised Crime Agency are underway with the NTSB already requesting that retailers stop selling the devices that are manufactured in China.

A prison spokesperson confirmed there are a range of techniques being employed to prevent the devices being used in jail including orifice scanners and “high-sensitivity” metal detectors.

"We're now working closely with the Serious Organised Crime Agency and Trading Standards to remove these small mobiles from sale in the UK, as well as legislating to block phone signals in prisons,” he told the BBC.

The NTSB e-crime centre also added that it was telling online retailers to cease selling the devices due to safety concerns.

"There is a strong possibility that these products were not put through the stringent safety testing UK products go through, which means that there is a chance they are electrically unsafe meaning they could cause fires and injure consumers through electrocution," the NTSB e-crime said.

Tiny mobile phones measure in at 8cm x 3cm x 2cm and are being sold on a number of well-known retail sites including Amazon and eBay. Phones cost just £40 and for that anyone can make calls or send SMS messages as long as a mobile phone signal is present.

A detailed specification cropped up on one device listing, which showed it’s a quad-band GSM phone, has Java-enabled GPRS Internet, Bluetooth connectivity, an FM radio, support for a microSD card and an MP3 and video player. The phone can be left on standby for up to 72 hours and is capable of two to three hours talk-time from a single charge.