An inspection of cells at North East courts has found some detainees being held in 'deplorable' conditions. The review was conducted in August 2012 by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and took in all 12 magistrates and 4 crown courts in the region.
The physical condition of the cells at Newcastle Magistrates Court was described as 'deplorable'. Problems included rot, damp and graffiti. Some toilets couldn't be flushed properly.
Cells at Newcastle Crown Court, along with Newton Aycliffe, Sunderland and Teesside Magistrates were classified as 'poor'.
Cells at Newcastle Crown Court Moot Hall were described as 'ancient and dungeon-like' with 18th century shackles still in place on corridor walls.
The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, responds to the report here:
Other problems highlighted include:
- Women and children held too closely to male detainees
- Pregnant women had no choice but to sit on hard benches
- Too little consideration for religious requirements or people with disabilities
Frances Crook from the Howard League for Penal Reform gave her response to the report:
HM Courts and Tribunals Service, which is responsible for conditions in court cells, issued this statement:
– Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service
HMCTS tries hard to be fully compliant with the latest standards. However, that is not always possible for a number of reasons, including physical constraints, which can be a particular problem in the case of the oldest courts ...
Since this inspection a survey of all cells on the Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria estate has taken place, and a programme of remedial works identified which will be completed by the end of the financial year.
A programme of deep cleaning has also been commissioned for al courts in the North East Region which will be completed by the end of the financial year; this will be followed by a regular programme of deep cleans for each custody suite thereafter.
Not all areas were criticised; the inspectors did find examples of adequate or good practice. Overall, they describe their findings as a 'mixed picture'.