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 last week, we have taken the decision to cease all direct monitoring of court custody suites and transport for the time being. This decision is supported by the Minister and Ministry of Justice Officials.
However we do recognise there is a need to continue to monitor conditions and treatment so we have initiated a programme of remote monitoring. This will involve 10 LOs contacting court custody managers and vehicle bases to discuss how they are managing in this difficult and ever changing situation. They will focus on three areas – Managing Covid 19; Health and Hygiene in the Custody Suite; Safety and Precautions for transportation.
This form of remote monitoring will provide information about the procedures and processes in place to protect everyone. It will also inform our understanding of the impact of COVID – 19 nationally and how far the precautions are being effectively and consistently applied.
We are also examining the possibility of establishing a free-phone line to enable detainees using in-cell telephony and the additional telephone capacity proposed by the Prison Service to contact the Lay Observer organisations to raise any issues of concern about their treatment in the custody suite or on transportation.
We will continue to update stakeholders as our own plans develop. It is planned that direct visits will resume as soon as is appropriate.