Lay Observers are independent, unpaid public appointees and work an average of 2-3 days per month. Their role is to provide independent oversight of how people detained in court cells and cellular vehicles are cared for and their access to justice.

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About us

Lay Observers play an important role in the justice system by monitoring the welfare and access to justice of people being brought to court and held in court custody. They are appointed by the Secretary of State under the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (CJA 1991) to provide independent oversight of how people detained in court cells and cellular vehicles are cared for and their access to justice.

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Latest news

  • Lay Observers 2019/20 annual report published

    Dirty cells, poor support for children and rising errors in medication records a ‘matter of embarrassment’ for the criminal justice system, says custody watchdog   People with health problems still ‘falling through the gaps’ in complex prison, police, court and transport arrangements  Poor recording of medical needs, lack of accessible sanitary provision for some women … Read more >

  • COURT CUSTODY WATCHDOG PRAISES STAFF DEDICATION DURING COVID-19 OUTBREAK

    John Thornhill, the National Chair of the Lay Observers (LOs) – who are volunteers appointed by ministers to ensure that people transported to and detained in court custody are treated with respect and decency – today praised the ‘caring and committed’ approach of court and escort staff during the Covid-19 outbreak. The 60-strong LO team … Read more >

  • UPDATE ON LAY OBSERVER ACTIVITY DURING COVID-19 OUTBREAK

    Lay Observers National Chair John Thornhill today updated stakeholders as follows: At this unprecedented time of the Covid–19 crisis our paramount concern is for the safety and health of all involved in our area of activity – detainees, custody and transport staff and Lay Observers. Given these concerns and based on the Government advice issued … Read more >

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