NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Court 'must ensure non English-speaking prisoners aware of rights'

Aberdeen Sheriff Court Image copyright Google
Image caption Aberdeen Sheriff Court is at the Castlegate end of Union Street

Aberdeen Sheriff Court must ensure prisoners who do not speak English are aware of their rights, an inspection report has said.

The HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS) inspection was carried out in December.

The court custody unit was described as "well-run" with staff "clearly motivated and working well as a team".

However the report said prisoners without a full grasp of English need to understand what is happening in court.

Wendy Sinclair-Gieben, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, said: "Staff prisoner relationships were decent and respectful. and the CCU (court custody unit) staff had developed good relationships with partners in the building.

"Staff maintained good levels of supervision and were highly visible and approachable; taking account of the varied needs of those they were responsible for.

"Prisoners with distinct vulnerabilities were located near the desk to allow staff to maintain greater observations and interactions."

Toilet hygiene

She went on: "To allow people to access their rights they need to know their rights, and if English is not their first language or they have limited communication skills it becomes challenging.

"Clear joint protocols are required to ensure that prisoners arriving at court fully understand why they are there, and the outcome of their court appearance.

"All parties concerned must develop a joint approach to ensure that procedures are in place for this to happen, and that the process is fully understood by all those involved."

The report said graffiti and toilet hygiene issues also needed addressed.

There could also be "tensions" when prisoners were being removed from escort vans.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) said the right to interpretation and translation services in order to fully understand court proceedings was enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights to ensure a fair trial.

On graffiti and toilet issues, the SCTS said: "The SCTS is working in partnership with the prisoner escorting provider to drive improvement and maintain standards within the custody suites."

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