Prisons watchdog warns custody cell toilets are a ‘potential biohazard’

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Inspectors said urinals at the court were a ‘potential biohazard’ (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A prison watchdog has warned that urinals in custody cells at a Scottish court are a “potential biohazard”.

An inspection report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPS) found people held in cells at Paisley Sheriff Court custody unit were continuing to use the deactivated urinals, which “emanated an odour of stale urine”.

In her foreword to the report, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland Wendy Sinclair-Gieben, said: “Deactivated urinals within the cells and the lack of sanitary bins caused a potential biohazard.”

The report states: “There were urinals in each of the holding cells. During the inspection, they had been deactivated and emanated an odour of stale urine.

“Court custody unit (CCU) staff advised that prisoners were instructed not to use the urinals and to ask to be taken from the holding cell to the toilet.

“However, this was frequently ignored and prisoners use the urinals. As they had been deactivated, they could not be flushed and a request had to be made for cleaners to attend and dispose of the urine.”

Following the inspection, sanitary bins have been installed, the inspectors were informed, with prisoners previously having had to leave bagged sanitary products in a corner of the cell for daily collection.

Removing or covering the cell urinals to prevent use was one of series of recommendations made by inspectors.

Generally, the report praised the court custody unit and highlighted good practice in making provision for people with restricted mobility.

Inspectors also found two prisoners, who were partners and both accused and alleged victims in a domestic violence incident, were marked as being needed to be kept apart and had been in police and court custody but had been transferred in the same vehicle to court.

The report states that during this journey the man was shouting at the woman and telling her not to talk to other prisoners.

Inspectors recommend “careful consideration” is given to how these types of prisoners are transported.

Further recommendations include stopping the practice of having legal representatives shouting the name of the prisoner they are visiting to staff from perimeter gate, which inspectors said breached confidentiality and “could potentially identify enemies or those prisoners at high risk”.

Inspectors also recommend dealing with the “offensive graffiti” in the cells and increasing the use of video conferencing to cut the number of prisoners having to use the court custody unit, which they said would save money and reduce risk.

Ms Sinclair-Gieben added: “Inspectors found the CCU to be an efficient and effective facility with staff that were clearly motivated, well led and working well as a team.

“Staff/prisoner relationships were professional, compassionate and respectful, resulting in a range of good practice including careful and appropriate cell allocation.

“Staff maintained good levels of supervision and had a thorough and compassionate approach to the risk of self-harm, distress and suicide.”

A Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service spokesman said: “The urinals were deactivated as it was considered they breach ECHR legislation due to a lack of privacy screening in multi-occupancy cells.

“Toilets with suitable screening are available and all custodies are instructed to request toilet visits as required.”

He added: “As funding becomes available it is the intention that the in-cell urinals fittings will be removed.”

He said the unit is regularly repainted to remove any offensive graffiti.

A spokesman for prisoner transport firm GEOAmey said: “In exceptional circumstances like this, the procedure used on vehicles mirrors that used in the police custody and court holding areas, which is to keep them in cell units furthest apart from each other to avoid physical contact.

“They would also be escorted on and off the vehicle independently to ensure separation.”

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