A CALL has gone out for more to be done to tackle scores of illicit items being smuggled into HMP Bullingdon.

More than 270 items of contraband were confiscated from inmates in the prison near Bicester last year and the union for prison officers say this is 'just the tip of the iceberg'.

The figures obtained by the Oxford Mail show one of the biggest rise was in the cases of prisoners found with spice, also known the 'zombie drug'.

Prisoners caught with the "volatile and dangerous" drug rose by a third from March 2016 to February 2017 compared to the year before, with 39 cases recorded at Bullingdon up from 29 but it is thought the true figure could be higher.

Independent Monitoring Board chairman of the board at HMP Bullingdon Paul Miller, who heads the group of volunteers who regularly visit and inspect the prison service, said: "The incidents with drugs and mobile phones in prisons in the country has been a growing problem over the last three or four years."

He added: "Spice has been very much on the increase over past years and it is a volatile and dangerous substance for anyone using it, it produces very bad behaviour.

"Although, there has be a clear indication for the instances of spice not only plateauing but it seems to be coming down much more recently which is very encouraging.

"This being said I wouldn’t dismiss the presence of spice. It is far from eradicated and it is very, very dangerous."

The Oxford Mail reported in May a case in which Oxford Crown Court was told in a report from HMP Bullingdon that former illegal high spice is now being sold by prisoners for about £100 per gram.

It said inmates at HMP Bullingdon are thought to be selling drugs 'in excess of five figures' after the illegal items are hustled into the Bicester jail.

Mr Miller said this was also something that was mirrored with the use of mobile phones in prisons.

He said: "The majority of phones that appear within the prison are much smaller than normal and very cheap to obtain on the outside.

"But they will generate enormous profit inside for prisoners, many, many hundreds inside and so the attraction for prisoners is considerable. They only have to get 10 in and they have made thousands in one go, which is quite the motivator unfortunately."

Figures show a total number of 56 mobile phones were found on inmates over the past year and 36 Sim cards.

Despite this being a decrease on the 77 mobile phones being confiscated from prisoners during 2015/16, union members say it is still a big issue and one battle staff are losing.

Prison Officer Association spokesman Glyn Travis said: "The POA is not surprised by the volume of contraband seized in Bullingdon, as this unfortunately is only the tip of the iceberg.

"Due to staff cuts and the ability of staff to fulfill essential security checks prisons are awash with contraband.

"Prisoners now use technology to combat the security of our prisons and stopping contraband is a difficult and challenging issue which unfortunately staff are losing.

"Even senior governors accept this as a reality claiming they have real problems with throw overs and drones."

The scores of illicit items being found at Bullingdon has also been linked with the rise in violence between prisoners and towards staff over recent years.

Prison violence hit record levels this year and staff protested outside prisons nationwide including those at HMP Bullingdon.

Mr Miller said the more items smuggled in to prisons is directly linked to inmates fighting over them.

He added: "One of the biggest frustrations when you talk to management within the prison is they haven’t got sufficient access to the latest technology to counter this.

"There has been a lot of technological developments for this type of thing but there is now a fraction of the spending money to be able to provide these machines.

"A lot more could be done but unfortunately it doesn’t come cheap."