Independent monitoring of court custody and escort – key findings, September 2017

In September 2017 Lay Observers spoke to 515 of the 684 people in court custody during their visits.

Of these, 177 had an identified medical condition and more than 20% of those with a medical condition were in court without their medication.

Lay Observers identified inaccuracies in 184 Person Escort Records (PERs), the documentation used by police, prisons and escort contractors to assess a detainee’s needs and risk factors. This represents more than 25% of PERs accompanying the people in court custody during a Lay Observer visit.

These findings highlight failures to comply with a straightforward process designed to reduce risk and provide appropriate care to detained people.

In his Annual Report to the Secretary of State for Justice for 2016/17, the Lay Observers Chairman recommended that all agencies using PERs make concerted efforts to improve their accuracy and that staff should refuse to accept care of any individual without a fully compliant record.

There are also ongoing concerns relating to the provision of information to people on their legal rights in custody, particular in relation to this being provided in a format and language that is accessible to the detained person. Concerns were also recorded that a number of individuals had been brought to court unnecessarily.

The physical condition and cleanliness in court cells remains poor – monitoring of this is ongoing and issues are regularly referred to HMCTS and its maintenance contractors. Lay Observers are seeking to provide input to the criteria for prioritising facilities management work so that long-running issues that have the greatest impact on the welfare of detained people can be addressed.