Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New prison vans can't reach court cells

The firm which won a multi-million pound contract to transport prisoners to courts has discovered its vans don't fit inside the Bristol Crown Court building. In March the Ministry of Justice awarded GEOAmey PECS Ltd contracts to provide prison escort and custody services across three regions of the UK in an agreement worth up to £900 million over a period of up to ten years. But when the GEOAmey's vans arrived at Bristol Crown Court in Small Street, their drivers found they could not be driven into the court entrance to the holding cells.

The blunder meant defendants in custody had to be escorted into the building from the street to attend court. The problem occurred because the vans do not have enough ground clearance to clear a ramp inside the building. One court worker, who asked not to be named, said: "You should have seen it. You needed to be there with a camera. It means they have to use old vans or march the defendants in."

A GEOAmey spokesman, said: "We have a number of vehicles designed to access the Bristol Crown Court building. However, on exceptionally busy days when those vehicles are fully utilised and particularly when prisoners are being brought from outside the area, a standard custody vehicle, as used in other locations, may not be able to negotiate the restricted access to the building.

"Such instances are rare. On these rare occasions and only after a proper risk assessment and using appropriate security measures, a decision may be made, to avoid causing a delay to court proceedings and the associated inconvenience, to escort a prisoner on foot. For the longer term we are examining the options available and progressing discussions with all interested parties."

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