Children handcuffed unnecessarily in court custody in West and North Yorkshire, inspectors find

Court custody facilities across North and West Yorkshire are mainly well run but several areas require attention, a prisons watchdog has found.

Cells for defendants in 11 local courts were “generally better than we often see”, according to Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, while the three agencies involved in their running - HM Courts and Tribunals Service, Prisoner Escort and Custody Services and private contractor GEOAmey – “worked harmoniously”.

However, handcuffs were “used excessively”, with compliant detainees, including children, handcuffed without justification while in secure areas, the inspection report reveals.

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There were also potential points for prisoners to attach ligatures for suicide attempts in about half of cells and support for detainees with mental ill health was often not good enough. High-security prisoner vans were mostly clean and well equipped, the report says, but it was “inappropriate that women and children were sometimes transported on vehicles with men, often without the use of available partitions to safeguard them”.

Child in handcuffs

Inspectors looked at custody facilities in Crown courts in Bradford, Leeds and York, as well as eight magistrates’ courts and an immigration asylum chamber in Bradford.

Mr Clarke said: “Overall, this was a good inspection. We found evidence of good leadership by HM Courts and Tribunals Service.”

HM Courts and Tribunals Service is now reviewing contract guidelines to ensure best practice for the use of handcuffs.

A spokesperson said: “This is a positive report, that recognises the work of our staff in ensuring people in custody are treated fairly and appropriately.

“We’re particularly pleased inspectors noted the cleanliness of facilities, strong leadership and training available for staff.

“In light of the inspection, we are taking steps to meet the recommendations so we can improve the service even further.”