According to the response to a freedom of information request submitted by criminal barrister Tomas McGarvey and seen by the Gazette, since May last year the agency has carried out safety inspections of the cell and custody areas at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) and Southwark Crown Court in London. Site visits have not been made to any of the other 77 Crown courts hearing jury trials at present.
Ministry of Justice officials said that cell areas are checked by the Prisoner Escort and Custody Service (PECS). The ministry renewed a contract with outsourcer Serco to provide the service in October 2019.
Lawyers and court staff have voiced concerns over safety measures and the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents court staff, is balloting members over strike action due to concerns.
Latest MoJ figures show that 97 prisoners in England and Wales have died with Covid and outbreaks have been reported at 69 jails – more than half of all prisons. The figures also showed that one in eight prisoners in England and Wales, and one in four prison staff, have tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic.
McGarvey, a tenant at Church Court Chambers, in London and member of the Criminal Bar Association’s Covid safety committee, told the Gazette there was an 'absolute lack of transparency' over court safety checks.
For full article https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/practice/only-two-crown-courts-checked-for-cell-safety/5107541.article?utm_source=gazette_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=PPE+case+costs+%7c+Sunak+%27to+extend+SDLT+holiday%27+%7c+Bar+sanctions+review_02%2f24%2f2021