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Crime news: digital devices in courts, police stations or prisons

How to respond if prevented from taking laptops, tablets or mobiles into buildings in the criminal justice system.

Anyone blocked from taking digital devices into courts, police stations or prison premises needs to know what to do to prevent future problems.

Your response will vary depending on whether the building is a court, police station or prison.

Courts

Guidance issued by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) in March 2012 states:

legal advisers/defence practitioners are authorised to bring into court holding cells/areas IT equipment… necessary for consultation with their clients and on… cases on which they are engaged with that particular client.

The equipment you can use includes mobile phones in the wider courthouse. But they should be switched off and out of sight in the courtroom itself.

You should email the CJS efficiency programme if you have an issue – see below. This should include:

  • your name and the name of your firm
  • date and court where the problem was encountered
  • details of the equipment and the nature of the court’s objection

Police stations

The Association of Chief Police Officers and The Law Society agreed joint guidance in August 2011.

This explains that the use of mobile telephones, laptops and hand held devices in custody suites allows solicitors to be:

more effective and efficient in carrying out their duties” and “the presumption should be to allow the solicitor to retain and use these devices.

It also says that:

the custody officer will only seek surrender of any such device where there are reasonable grounds to believe that surrender is necessary to prevent unauthorised communications.

This refers to “unauthorised communications being made by or on behalf of any detainee.”

Problems should be put in writing and sent to the local chief constable.

Prisons

NOMS guidance issued in March 2012 says:

prisons should allow solicitors to bring necessary IT equipment into legal visits or implement alternative arrangements which allow solicitors to properly brief their clients electronically.

Mobile devices are permitted in open prisons if the local open prison regulations allow it.

But in general, there is no authorisation to bring in and/or possess mobile telephones on the prison estate.

Send details of problems in writing to the Governor/Director of the establishment concerned. If necessary, it can be escalated to the Deputy Director of Custody or equivalent.

Further information

CJSEfficiency@cps.gsi.gov.uk – to send details of courthouse equipment issues, including where and when it happened

CJS efficiency programme: defence practitioners – to download digital working guidelines and Prison Service Instruction extract

Professional Practice: Criminal Justice – look under 2011 to download guidance about custody suites