The decision to send a van nearly 100 miles to collect a prisoner and transport him 60 yards has been met with outrage.
The van was sent from Southampton to Banbury in Oxford to transport the defendant from Banbury police station to the Magistrates Court. The Court is next door to the police station.
The defendant had been held overnight to appear before magistrates for his arrest in relation to two alleged public order offences.
The incident came to light as waiting for the van made the defendant late for a separate appearance for an attempted robbery charge at Oxford Crown Court. Judge Tom Corrie questioned how much public money had been wasted by not walking the defendant the few steps between the two buildings.
The company responsible for transporting prisoners is based in Oxford, but claimed all their local staff were busy. To avoid a breach of the defendants human rights and to protect his privacy, the company felt the best solution was to send for a van from Southampton.
However, a spokesman for the company denied reports the journey was being pocketed by the taxpayer as he said the company was under a fixed-price contract.
He said, "It's not the practice in this country to walk defendants down the street in handcuffs. If we had walked him down the street we would be criticised and now we are being criticised for what we are contractually obliged to do, which is to transport prisoners from one secure unit to another."
A statement from the company also added, "In this particular instance, the request to move this prisoner came late, by which time all our available Buckinghamshire-based vehicles and crews had already been allocated to other routes and schedules. Diverting one of them would have disrupted its schedule and meant late arrivals at courts.
"Therefore, as a contingency measure, in order to deliver the standard of service we are committed to provide, a vehicle and officers were deployed from our Eastleigh base."
Glyn Travis, of the Prison Officers’ Association, said, “This is a prime example of how the privatised system is a constant drain on public resources.”
“In the past police would have been able to walk him to the station themselves but now because of the contracts with private companies they are not able to do so. It is wrong for the contractors to think they needed to move a van nearly 100 miles to protect the human rights of the prisoner.”
“It is not unusual to walk prisoners in handcuffs through the streets in situations where the distance is short or there is no access for prison vans. This is another example of where the human rights of offenders is completely disproportionate to reality.”
By Ben Malkin
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