A WATCHDOG has highlighted failings in the way prisoners are transferred to court and held there.
The system lacks a “unified and coherent” approach to care of detainees — problems include errors in record-keeping, poor cell conditions, inadequate access to healthcare for people in court custody and unsatisfactory arrangements for children and young people facing trial.
Every month about 50,000 prisoners are taken between police stations or prisons and courts by private contractors on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.
Publishing his annual report for 2016-17 yesterday, chairman of lay observers for England and Wales Tony FitzSimons said: “As lay observers, we have a duty to speak up about the failings we routinely identify.”
The report described how observers are concerned that the system is made up of “disconnected” contracts and responsibilities. It is “bound to fail, with the risk of serious consequences to the welfare and access to justice of the detained persons,” it added.
The report recommended that a duty of care to all detained persons be delegated to an overarching authority.
It referred to the death of Sivaraj Tharmalingham in court custody in 2015. The coroner commented that the lack of co-ordination between organisations and the failures to meet appropriate standards “had contributed materially to his death.”
Howard League for Penal Reform director Andrew Neilson told the Star: “Shining a light on problems that are more commonly seen in prisons, this report underlines the need for major reform of the criminal justice system as a whole.
“Unless and until ministers take bold steps to put less strain on the system, these services will continue to fail the public.”