Annual report of Lay Observers highlights risk of serious consequences to welfare and access to justice for detained persons as result of lack of coherent approach to exercising duty of care

In his third annual report to the Secretary of State for Justice, the former Chairman of Lay Observers for England and Wales, Tony Fitzsimons, details failings in the care of people held in custody at courts and transported between police stations, prisons and courts by escort contractors.

The 2017-18 annual report repeats continued concern that a system of disconnected contracts and responsibilities for the different elements of services for escort and court custody remains an issue.

The welfare of Detained Persons is at risk due to poor communication, delays in the provision of appropriate healthcare provision and incomplete personal data. The report raises the question whether these factors can also lead to inaccuracies in the administration of their court case, particularly when their health deteriorates in court custody.

The report identifies a number of concerns with a  negative impact on the welfare of those in custody, which include:-

  • Inadequate access to healthcare.  There is no on site medical support located in the custody area of any court and there is inadequate provision of medication. 10% of courts do not have any form of mental health support.

 

  • The condition of custody suites continues to fall below acceptable standards, with concerns of poor cleanliness of cells and inadequate facilities.

 

  • The escort and court custody arrangements for children and young people facing trial is unsatisfactory. YPs are treated like adults, placed in small windowless cells and cared for by custody officers with no special training.

 

  • Disabled people are frequently sent for trial at courts that are not accessible to them with the result that they are discriminated against and their dignity is not protected.

 

  • Close to half of the records sent by police and prisons when handing over custodies to the Prison Escort Services (PECS) contractors are inaccurate and more than half do not give sufficient information to allow proper risk assessments of the security and welfare of the DP to be made.

 

Read the report in full here.

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