Inspectors blast ‘disrespectful and indecent’ conditions in Snaresbrook Crown Court cells

The unemployed Barking man appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court accused of GBH Picture: John Stillwel

The unemployed Barking man appeared at Snaresbrook Crown Court accused of GBH Picture: John Stillwell/PA - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

Inspectors have raised grave concerns over cell conditions at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) checked seven court custody facilities managed across north and east London by public services contractor Serco last September, with the report of its findings released today.

The report, which was critical of the physical condition of numerous custody suites in courthouses across north-east London, named Snaresbrook as “by far the worst”.

In a scathing indictment of the quality of its cells, the report branded them “disrespectful and indecent”.

“Cells and toilet areas were covered with graffiti,” inspectors claimed. “Some of which was racist and offensive, and they were dirty.

“They required immediate remedial action and ongoing maintenance, redecoration and repair to ensure that detainees were held in clean and decent environments.”

Staff at Snaresbrook had “become inured to the dirt, graffiti and damage in the cells,” the report stated.

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To make matters worse, concerns were also raised about the temperature of Snaresbrook’s cells – too hot and poorly ventilated in the summer and too cold in the winter due to a broken boiler.

One of the biggest failings inspectors identified was the fact that defendants were frequently required to share cells, without the appropriate cell-sharing risk assessments (CSRA) being carried out.

“Inconsistent completion of the CSRA was potentially unsafe,” the report ruled, before claiming it was crucial staff received more training on risk-assessment.

However, inspectors did commend Snaresbrook on having a separate space for detainees to pray in and also recognised one incident in which the court’s custody manager had paid for a vulnerable detainee who had been released to get a taxi home.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “We thank HMIP for this report and will consider its findings as we continue to improve custody facilities for detainees who appear in our courts.

“As part of our £1 billion investment to modernise our courts we will make better use of digital technology to speed up processes like issuing results and warrants and increase the use of video links to reduce the need for prisoners to be brought to court.”