Ministers have been urged to do more to ensure prisoners cannot share videos and photos on social media and brag about their crimes from behind bars.

The Commons heard that one of the murderers of 18-year-old Jack Woodley had “made a TikTok video in which he raps about his sentence, implying that it is not serious” - as exclusively revealed by The Northern Echo. 

Jack Woodley was fatally stabbed after being “surrounded and isolated” by a gang of youths who chased him down an alleyway in Houghton-le-Spring, Sunderland.

The Northern Echo:

He was punched, kicked, stamped on and stabbed during the attack in October 2021, as he walked home from a funfair.

At Newcastle Crown Court last year, 10 then-unnamed teenagers were handed minimum terms of between eight and 17 years detention, after being convicted.

Their bids to appeal against their sentences were later dismissed, with a judge ruling that most of them should be named.

In the Commons, Conservative MP for Sedgefield Paul Howell urged ministers to ensure that prisoners are prevented from obtaining phones, to prevent them making videos which could harm their victims’ families.

Mr Howell said: “These problems have been horrifically exemplified by the case of my constituent Zoey McGill and her son Jack Woodley, who was tragically stabbed to death in 2021.

“These past few years have been incredibly challenging for Zoey.

“Although her son’s murderers were jailed for between eight and 17 years, one can imagine her horror when she discovered that one of them had made a TikTok video in which he raps about his sentence, implying that it is not serious, and he boasts of having a phone while wearing a designer t-shirt.”

The Northern Echo: The rapper in the video does share physical similarities to Calum MaddisonThe rapper in the video does share physical similarities to Calum Maddison (Image: Contributor)

He described what had happened as “disturbing”, adding: “I think it is incumbent on all of us in this place to do everything we can to stop this cancer.”

Mr Howell went on: “I believe that the purpose of prison ought to be punishment, especially for serious crimes.

“It is no bad thing if prisoners are sat in their cell sadly wondering what is going on with their old friends, feeling out of touch with the outside world.

“The denial of liberty and restricted access to the world outside prison is exactly the point of being locked up. The rules are clear, mobile phones are not allowed among killers.

“Jack’s killer should never have been allowed to make or post a video.”

Justice minister Edward Argar described what had happened as “completely unacceptable” and said the Ministry of Justice had invested in a digital media investigations unit to deal with such incidents.

Mr Argar told MPs: “As soon as they spot or alerted to prisoner misuse of social media, they act swiftly to work with social media companies to have the content taken down.”The Northern Echo: Sedgefield MP Paul HowellSedgefield MP Paul Howell (Image: Northern Echo)

“In the case of Jack’s murderer the team did just that,” he added, claiming that the content and account were removed by TikTok within three hours of it coming to the Government’s attention.

However, the minister said he was “increasingly concerned by photos and videos from custody being shared on social media”, and listed several cases where big tech companies had not replied to requests for content to be removed.

Mr Argar said: “We are clear that harmful social media content posted from prison should not have a home online and that we need to take effective action to remove it.

“Clearly the current legislation does not quite go far enough.”

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Mr Argar urged MPs to back the Prison Media Bill, a private member’s Bill being sponsored through the Commons by Conservative MP Katherine Fletcher (South Ribble).

MPs ran out of time to debate the Bill when it was meant to appear in the Commons on Friday, February 23.

It is due to appear again for consideration this Friday, but the Commons is unlikely to have time to consider it as it sits towards the bottom of the lists of Bills due for debate.

  • The Northern Echo launched campaign to address the root causes of knife crime after the ten teenagers who attacked Jack in October 2021 were jailed for murder. The newspaper launched the North East Knife Crime Taskforce in June last year following the shocking deaths of three more teenagers in the region who died also from stab wounds.