The most vulnerable youngsters including those with disabilities are being treated in “totally unacceptable” ways in court custody.
The Lay Observers (LO) described the ill-treatment of young people as “matter of embarrassment” for the criminal justice system. A report said that among those left for hours in court cells awaiting legal representation, were youngsters with Downs` syndrome and autism.
Concerns have been raised over the “dirty cells” in which vulnerable detainees live, with food and liquids “spattered up the walls” and abusive graffiti some of which is racist, gang or drug-related.
LO national chairman John Thornhill said: “It is clear some people have to appear in court having travelled hundreds of miles, others are not supported with their medical conditions or disabilities; some are then kept in dirty court cells for hours on end. This is a matter of embarrassment in a modern criminal justice system.”
A body of volunteers assigned by the government to inspect court custody conditions and transport arrangements for inmates in England and Wales warned that young people and those with health issues were “falling through gaps”.
The report made reference to a number of incidents of ill-treatment of youngsters and those with disabilities. A young man with Downs` syndrome had to wait four hours to see his lawyer at Westminster Magistrates` Court because there was limited space.
A female teenager had also been treated in a “totally unacceptable ” manner, after being sentenced in the late afternoon at Plymouth Magistrates Court, she was not moved from custody until 10 pm to make a 235-mile journey to Rainsbrooke Secure Training Centre near Rugby in Warwickshire, where she arrived in the early hours of the next day.
Ministers need to take urgent action to improve court custody conditions and transport as the current conditions threaten the wellbeing of detainees.