The Home Office is to give email access to some prisoners so they can keep in touch with friends and families.

Under the pilot programme, the selected prisoners will be allowed to send emails to pre-approved email addresses. The email messages must be in plain text only, without attachments or images.

The Home Office said the project will be introduced once it has been fully reviewed by ministers. They are currently looking into how to prevent abuse of the system.

Incoming and outgoing email messages will be monitored by prison staff to detect any inappropriate content. All emails will be archived for future reference.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said that if the system is abused it will be made unavailable for up to six months.

There is no information yet on which prisons will trial the service.