In their 2021-22 national annual report published today, the Lay Observers (LOs) raise serious concerns about the treatment of detainees with particular focus on children and young persons (CYPs) and the impact of staff shortages. Vulnerable children are often are often not supported by specially trained officers and are required to travel in the close company of adult detainees. They are often left alone in locked cells/rooms, without age‐related activities or diversions for long periods of time.
The report also highlights a number of further concerns, including:
- Unnecessary delays in travel times to and from court, trials taking place and individuals being released from court.
- A significant backlog of cases is being managed by the courts, in a challenging environment where staffing is short, and information is not readily available.
- Differing IT systems used by the organisations involved in the care of detainees prevents important information being shared effectively. Nearly one-fifth of all official documents lack accurate and complete information – preventing custody officers making effective risk assessments and putting detainees at risk.
John Thornhill, Chair of the LOs, said,
“We acknowledge that escort and court staff generally manage the welfare of detainees effectively, but failures in a complex system work against them. Serious staff shortages and uncoordinated information systems make their task very difficult and has a major impact on the treatment of those in their care. We recommend the creation of a national regulatory body to oversee the operations of the many agencies, groups and authorities involved in the care of CYPs, adult females and males to ensure proper inter communication and management. This body should be comprised of senior representatives of the all the relevant agencies and with the authority and capacity to affect constructive change. This is necessary to prevent the risk of a very serious incident”