EXCLUSIVE: North-east London court gaolers ‘failing to provide proper service’

The company with a multi-million pound contract to transport prisoners to local courts has been described as not “providing them with a proper service”.

An internal HM Courts & Tribunal Service email seen by the Recorder lists a number of complaints about Serco’s work in the North East London magistrates’ court area – which covers Romford, Barkingside and Waltham Forest courts.

Court staff, including ushers and administrators, have been asked to highlight the issues they have been having with the service and pass it on to managers.

The memo lists a number of complaints, including:

n failing to man three courts.

n failing to collect warrants.

n failing to communicate regularly with court staff.

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It says that the court service has raised the same issues with the company at monthly meetings on three occasions.

It adds that a member of the court service staff who attended a previous meeting had been “very frustrated and annoyed that Serco are not providing the court with a proper service”.

It also states that: “gaolers have become very defensive when questioned. I have asked [a member of staff] to relay to the gaolers that the Court is right to make a full enquiry if the service provided is inadequate and the gaolers are to provide this information when requested.”

Last year Serco signed a seven year contract with the London and East of England National Offender Management Service (NOMs) to escort prisoners between courts, prisons and police stations.

The contract is worth �42m per year, with an option to extend the contract for a further three years.

When contacted by the Recorder about the email, a spokesman for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) said: “We do not give running commentaries on internal management discussions.

“HMCTS and Serco work together to ensure that service levels are maintained.

“Our close working relationship means that, when performance issues arise, appropriate action can be taken quickly to resolve them.

The spokesman added: “Serco is working constructively to improve performance in north-east London and progress is being seen.”

A Serco spokesman added: “We are working with HMCTS to ensure that service levels are maintained and we maintain a close working relationship with them.”