Serco 'accidentally sent murder suspect to court in wrong county'

Robert Trigg was due to appear at Lewes Crown Court but ended up at Aldershot Magistrates Court 75 miles away instead

Caroline Mortimer@cjmortimer
Tuesday 24 January 2017 19:43
Serco hold the MoJ contract to transport prisoners to court
Serco hold the MoJ contract to transport prisoners to court

Private security giant Serco accidentally drove a suspected murderer to the wrong court, 75 miles from where he was supposed to be, a judge has said.

Robert Trigg has been charged with the murder of two former girlfriends and was due to make an appearance at Lewes Crown Court in East Sussex.

But the judge was forced to adjourn the hearing after a van driver with the private security firm took him to a magistrates court in Aldershot in Hampshire - 75 miles away.

Expressing her frustration about the mix-up in court, Judge Shani Barnes said it was “simply unacceptable”, adding that she would make a formal complaint.

“He (Trigg) is on his way to Aldershot," she said. "Serco are contracted to bring prisoners to court in a certain timeframe and being two-and-a-half hours late is simply not acceptable."

She added that she had phoned the firm and she was "not going to repeat what I said to them.”

However, Serco refuted the judge's claim and denied it had taken to Trigg to the wrong court.

Kevin Hagan, the company's prisoner escort contract director, said it had been transporting two prisoners and had been delayed by reasons beyond their control.

“We are very sorry that the defendant arrived late at Lewes Crown Court," he The Daily Mail. “This was down to a series of events beyond our control and we are in contact with judge and the court to explain what happened.”

Serco, a private outsourcing company, currently holds a Prisoner Escort and Custody Services (PECS) contract with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

This involves the transportation of prisoners to and from 24 Crown Courts, 43 Magistrates’ Courts, 24 prisons and 131 police stations.

But its tenure has prove controversial and it has been accused of mismanagement and poor treatment of prisoners in the past.

In August 2013, the MoJ called on City of London Police to carry out an investigation into whether Serco had misleadingly labelled prisoners as ready for court when they weren’t in order to meet performance targets.

The probe was dropped a year later and no further action was taken. Serco were allowed to continue providing transport services until the contract runs out in 2018 but agreed to repay all past profit and forego future profit on the contract.

Trigg is accused of murdering Susan Nicholson, also 52, at a property in Worthing, West Sussex in April 2011.

He has also been charged with the manslaughter of Caroline Devlin, 35, who was found dead in bed in Worthing in March 2006.

The unemployed 52-year-old, faces further charges for allegedly harassing and then assaulting a 45-year-old woman in the street in December.

No pleas were entered during the five-minute hearing and he was remanded in custody.

The case has been adjourned till March.

Additional reporting by PA