60 yard prison van trip condemned
A decision to send a prison van 90 miles to transport a man from a police station to the magistrates' court next door has been slammed as a waste of money.
GEOAmey, a company which collects and delivers prisoners across England and Wales on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, took a defendant from Banbury police station to the Oxfordshire town's magistrates' court - a distance of around 60 yards - in a vehicle that had come from Southampton, Hampshire.
The 27-year-old appeared before magistrates after being held in custody overnight following his arrest for two alleged public order offences earlier this month.
The incident came to light after 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.
But a spokesman for GEOAmey 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 GEOAmey added: "We normally cover Banbury from out of our Buckinghamshire vehicle base.
"However, 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."
A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said prisoner transport was the responsibility of contractors such as GEOAmey and not police. It added: "I am sure the public would prefer to see police officers on the streets and not providing transport for defendants, and to achieve this Thames Valley Police continues to work with the contractors provided by the National Offender Management Service."