New prison van 'can't reach cells'
Published 19/09/2011 | 16:56
A firm paid millions of pounds to take defendants to court came unstuck when it discovered some vans were too low to clear a ramp to cells - forcing a prisoner to finish the journey on foot.
GEOAmey PECS won three contracts from the Ministry of Justice to provide prison escort and custody services across three regions of the UK, worth up to £900 million over a period up to 10 years.
But when a GEOAmey van arrived at Bristol Crown Court in Small Street, their drivers found it could not be driven down the court entrance to the holding cells.
The building is designed so two large doors open to allow vans down a ramp inside the building before the doors close again as defendants are taken out of the vans and into the court's custody.
GEOAmey said the problem occurred because the vans do not have enough ground clearance to use the ramp inside the building.
This meant defendants in custody had to be escorted into the building on foot from the street.
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."
The spokesman said the firm is examining other options available but added a prisoner has only had to be escorted on foot on one occasion.