CUSTODY facilities in Dorset's criminal courts are "reasonably good" according to inspectors - but there's still room for improvement.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons released a full report following its inspections of court custody across Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

A team of inspectors visited Weymouth and Poole magistrates courts and the crown court in Bournemouth earlier this year.

All courts involved were generally praised for their leadership, strategy and planning, and their care and treatment of detainees. Inspectors also noted that there was a "positive staff culture" across the courts. The report said although working relationships between the three key agencies involved in delivering court custody services, they were "robust" and "committed to delivering good outcomes for detainees."

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: "Unless there were legitimate reasons not to do so, the cases for many detainees were heard at the earliest opportunity, to limit the time they spent in custody.

"There was also a strong focus on ensuring that detainees were released safely, with special care afforded to the most vulnerable.”

Inspectors praised the practice of providing ‘distraction packs’ of puzzles and quizzes for children held in custody.

However, Mr Clarke said,there were a number of areas that required further attention.

He continued: "The geography of the cluster was challenging and meant that many detainees experienced long journeys, both to get to court and, if remanded or sentenced, in transferring to prison."

Inspectors said comfort breaks were not usually facilitated on these journeys, but video-link court hearings sometimes helped avoid long journeys.

The standard of the custody estate – in the courts cluster stretching from Bournemouth to Truro - was mixed. Some cells were small, cold, not clean enough and contained potential ligature points, the report stated.

At Weymouth Magistrates Court, inspectors found that when the person employed to clean was not on duty, cleaning was not done. At many magistrates courts there was no cleaning done between Friday evening and Monday evening, including when detainees had been there on the Saturday.

Mr Clarke added: "The approach to handcuffing was not individualised: we observed too much unnecessary usage, including on children, in the secure and controlled custody environment."

However he said that, overall, the inspection was "reasonably good" and is confident that "a number of recommendations" will deliver future improvements.


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