DRUGS found in Dorset prisons, including HMP Guys Marsh in Shaftesbury, have risen by more than 250 per cent, according to data from the Ministry of Justice.

In the year to March 2020, 427 searches uncovered drugs across The Verne, HMP/YOI Portland and Guys Marsh prisons. This rose from 121 the previous year.

Across England and Wales, a record 21,575 searches by prison staff revealed drugs in the year to March 2020, with prisoners failing 14 per cent of random drug tests.

Ministry of Justice data revealed 82 searches uncovered drugs within HMP Guys Marsh during the same period, down from 87 the previous year but still the equivalent of roughly seven seizures every month.

It added 13 per cent of the mandatory drug tests conducted in the prison during this period returned a positive result, down from 28 per cent.

Prison reform charity the Howard League has warned confiscations do not show “the true scale of the problem”.

Chief executive Frances Crook said drugs were a “scourge” in prisons: “Ministers have spent millions on tightening security, and this may be having an effect, but the best way to reduce the supply of drugs into prisons is to reduce the demand for them.

“Staff time spent monitoring scanners would be better deployed in building relationships and working with people in prison to keep them occupied with work, education, training and exercise.”

Ms Crook said this is one reason why Covid-19 restrictions in prisons should be eased “safely and as soon as possible”.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We are finding and stopping more drugs thanks to the tough new measures brought in by this Government, such as airport-style security and x-ray body scanners.”

He added that it would be “misleading” to draw conclusions on the impact of restricted prison regimes during lockdown.