Investigation highlights safety concerns at Stratford Magistrates’ Court
PUBLISHED: 11:54 24 January 2017
An investigation into custody measures has raised fears over safety at Stratford Magistrates’ Court.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) checked seven court custody facilities managed across north and east London by public services contractor Serco last September, with the report of its findings released today.
Chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said: “We have some significant concerns about safety, risk management, care for the most vulnerable detainees and the physical environment.”
According to its authors, the most serious concern raised in the report applied to how courts assessed detainees for risk to make sure the most vulnerable were identified and managed safely. It relates to a criticism already raised after the death in custody of Sivaraj Tharmalingam at Thames Magistrates’ Court in April 2015 when he was transferred to Serco’s care after his detention at Forest Gate police station.
Whilst the report praised how well staff at Stratford Magistrates’ Court were briefed about detainees upon their arrival and the court’s own move to pilot a more formal risk assessment, it described the new procedure as “unworkable”.
As well as finding fault with the lengthy periods of time detainees were being held in courts across north and east London, HMIP inspectors found cells covered in racist, sexist, homophobic and islamophobic graffiti - including at the Stratford court.
In addition, inspectors observed a lack of checks on the most vulnerable detainees with no special provisions made for minors.
Inspectors found cleaning and maintenance were delivered ineffectively with investment needed to improve “unacceptable conditions”.
Among its recommendations, HMIP called for an investigation into why detainees were held in cells for so long.
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “We thank HMIP for this report and will consider its findings as we continue to improve custody facilities for detainees who appear in our courts.
“As part of our £1 billion investment to modernise our courts we will make better use of digital technology to speed up processes like issuing results and warrants and increase the use of video links to reduce the need for prisoners to be brought to court.”
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