Watchdog critical on airport custody at Stansted and Luton

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Concerns about the way people are held in custody at airports in Essex and Bedfordshire have been raised by the prisons watchdog.

The HM Chief Inspector of Prisons reports criticised staff at Stansted and Luton airports for handcuffing detainees in full view of the public.

The security work is undertaken by private firm Tascor.

Tascor said it was looking at the reports and would make a formal response later.

The reports follow an unannounced inspections of the short-term holding facilities at Stansted Airport and Luton Airport in December 2013 - used, for example, for holding suspected illegal immigrants or people being removed from the country.

The report on Stansted Airport says that although the room for holding people was designed for stays of no more than 24 hours, inspectors were "concerned to find that a detainee had been held for more than 40 hours shortly before our inspection".

The inspection team said it was "similarly concerned about arrangements for protecting the dignity of detainees arriving from other places of detention in the UK".

"These detainees were handed over in handcuffs to facility staff at the front of the airport and escorted into the facility in full view of the public," the report added.

'Detained too long'

The inspectors were also concerned that the security staff did not always use interpreters to communicate with non-English speakers. "This inhibited their ability to care for detainees," said the report.

The report on Luton Airport notes that one detainee was kept in detention for 35 hours and 40 minutes, which was "too long for a non-residential facility".

In general detainees at both airport were treated with respect, the reports added.

In a statement Tascor said it "is considering the recommendations, some of which are outside its jurisdiction, in consultation with its client, the Home Office, and will formally respond to HMIP shortly".

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