England

Sussex and Surrey court custody criticised in HMIP report

Prison (generic) Image copyright PA
Image caption The court custody service was restructured in 2013 to handle remand cases in fewer magistrates' courts

Custody staff used restraints on "compliant" female and child detainees, in prison vehicles, a report has found.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) carried out inspections at 13 crown and magistrates' courts in Sussex and Surrey, in August.

In the report, Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, said there were "serious shortcomings".

HM Courts and Tribunals Service said a meeting had been organised to "consider the report".

In 2013, the court custody service was restructured, to handle remand cases in fewer magistrates' courts.

A HMIP spokesman said: "This had resulted in the cells at those courts being overloaded, with detainees sitting on the floor on one day and all cells being empty the next.

"Physical conditions varied from good to very poor. Provision of basic toilet facilities, hygiene and cleanliness in some court custody suites was poor."

'Lacked authority'

He added: "Women and children were transferred in cellular vehicles with male detainees (sometimes with all-male crews), which can result in women being harassed by male detainees.

"Staff used restraints with compliant detainees, including women and children and lacked the authority to challenge this."

A spokesman for HM Courts and Tribunals Service said since the inspection, inter-agency relationships had been "strengthened to ensure that operations are run effectively".

He said: "We will be working closely with GeoAmey [prison transport service] and the National Offender Management Service to deliver a joint action plan, which addresses the inspectorate's recommendations as soon as possible.

"A meeting of the agencies has been arranged to consider the report. A programme of deep cleaning is already in place and is carried out twice yearly for courts in Surrey and Sussex."

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