Inspection finds prisoners being brought to court in underwear

An inspection of the custody unit at Edinburgh Sheriff Court was carried out earlier this year by HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS). Picture: TSPL
An inspection of the custody unit at Edinburgh Sheriff Court was carried out earlier this year by HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS). Picture: TSPL
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The prisons inspectorate has said it is “unacceptable” people are arriving for court from custody dressed in only their underwear or nightclothes.

An inspection of the custody unit at Edinburgh Sheriff Court was carried out earlier this year by HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS). While the unit was found to be well run, prisoners were observed arriving for court appearances from police custody without being properly dressed.

HMIPS, led by Wendy Sinclair-Gieben, the new chief inspector of prisons, called on Police Scotland to ensure those arriving from custody are “appropriately dressed” for the journey and their court appearance.

The watchdog said: “It was concerning to observe prisoners being removed from escort vans in their nightclothes and one prisoner appeared to be in his underwear and one prisoner had no footwear. It is unacceptable that individuals are expected to appear in a court of law in their underwear or nightclothes.”

Inspectors visited the court in June and found over 60 people in custody, having arrived from police cells or prisons.The custody unit was found to be well run, with “well-motivated” staff who worked well as a team.

However while observing prisoners arriving in escort vans, it was noted that one female prisoner was in nightclothes, two prisoners were in shorts, one prisoner appeared to be in his underwear and one prisoner had no footwear.

The inspectors also found that the provision of open urinals within many of the holding cells did not meet “basic standards of decency” and raised concerns around possible infections.

Their report called for the use of the urinals to cease with immediate effect.

Chief Superintendent Garry McEwan, of Police Scotland, said: “We note the report and are keen to work with our partners on the recommendations.

“Police Scotland ensure that all those in police custody are treated with dignity and respect. Alternative footwear and clothing is stocked in all primary suites and where practical is offered. All relevant health information is recorded as part of the personal escort record, which remains with the prisoner when they are transferred into the custody of G4S.”

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service said: “In meeting the new standards we carry out regular deep cleans and re-painting of cells as part of our maintenance programme. In-cell urinals are being taken out of commission throughout the court estate on a rolling programme. Suitable toilet facilities – with appropriate decency screening – are available in the Edinburgh unit.

“We will continue to work with Scottish Prison Service and HMIPS to consider future changes that maintain human decency and the safety, security and welfare of people held in custody.”