Concerns raised by inspectors over handcuffing in court custody - including of children - in Hampshire

CONCERNS over handcuffing of detainees in court custody were highlighted in an inspector’s report.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 19th December 2019, 8:48 am

Whilst the findings revealed those in court custody in Hampshire, Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight were generally treated well and held in reasonable conditions, inspectors revealed things could be improved following their visits in August.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons found its previous recommendations to having a ‘risk-based’ approach to handcuffing were not deployed – with children also routinely being on the receiving end of the approach.

Peter Clarke, chief inspector, said: ‘We have made repeated recommendations concerning the lack of an individual and risk-based approach to handcuffing but continued to find that all detainees, including children, were routinely handcuffed in the secure custody environment.’

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Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Although children only make-up a relatively small number of those in court custody during the year – around 4.5 per cent – the treatment towards them was still a cause for concern when handcuffing.

The report noted: ‘Children were essentially treated the same as adults. They were still routinely handcuffed and accommodated in a cell, which did not make for a positive experience.’

Other areas that needed improving included avoiding unnecessary delays in court. Mr Clarke said: ‘While there was a commitment to prioritising the cases of those detained in court custody, it was not always possible to do so, and delays in solicitors attending court custody were more acute than we have seen elsewhere.’

Overall, though, the inspectors found that those in courts custody were treated positively. ‘For many, the custodial environment can be unfamiliar and stressful, but custody staff engaged with detainees in a compassionate and caring way and were skilled at allaying fears and defusing tension and anxieties,’ Mr Clarke said.

‘There was a clear strategic focus on promoting safe and decent escort, custody and court services. The inter-agency relationships between those involved in the delivery of court custody were good.’

Inspectors also identified the care for women’s needs as ‘now being met consistently’.

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Overall, Mr Clarke, said: ‘This was a good inspection with many positive features. The three key agencies worked well together and were properly focused on ensuring safe and decent detention.

‘We have made a number of recommendations and are confident that they will be used to deliver ongoing improvements.’

A HM Courts and Tribunals Service spokesman said: ‘This is a largely positive report that recognises the hard work of our staff in ensuring those in custody are treated fairly and appropriately.

‘In light of this inspection, we are taking steps to meet the recommendations and improve the service even further. This includes only using handcuffs on detainees when an individual risk assessment has recommended it.’