Crowded remand cells 'risking lives'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Overcrowding in cells used to hold prisoners who are waiting to appear in court is endemic and putting lives at risk, a damning official report said yesterday. Facilities at some magistrates' courts are so poor that solicitors have had to discuss cases with clients in the toilets or through cell grilles.

Overcrowding in cells used to hold prisoners who are waiting to appear in court is endemic and putting lives at risk, a damning official report said yesterday. Facilities at some magistrates' courts are so poor that solicitors have had to discuss cases with clients in the toilets or through cell grilles.

The Magistrates' Courts Service Inspectorate said the lack of cells at some courts meant vulnerable people were waiting for their appearances while locked up in prison vans.

Sue Steel, a senior inspector involved in compiling the report, said: "Obviously the more people you have in a confined space in what is not going to be the most pleasant of circumstances, worried and nervous, the greater the potential there is for problems."

The report said that lack of communication between security and courts staff has resulted in at least one death: a violent and suicidal drug user killed himself in custody in the past year after security officers' appeals for his hearing to be brought forward were not communicated to courts staff.

Paul Cavadino, of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, said: "It would be surprising if there are not further tragedies involving self harm or suicide unless something is done to improve conditions."

The inspectorate's report also threw light on widespread security problems. Two-thirds of courthouses hearing custody cases did not have a secure dock and one-quarter of court buildings were deemed to be at high risk of prisoners escaping.

Comments