From: Head of Reconfiguration Project, HMPPS & Claire Jukes, Head of Crime Recovery, HMCTS
As you know, in response to the pandemic, we worked swiftly to open up the previously closed prison-to-court video links so that CJS practitioners could join prison video consultations remotely. Because official visits by video are subject to the same security requirements as physical visits, we put in place an authentication protocol.
Clearly, we need to ensure that prisons can maintain prisoner security, but we also need to be pragmatic about the difficulties faced by defence practitioners in providing advance notification of who will be joining calls.
We therefore plan to carry out a small-scale pilot in HMPs Elmley and HMP Lewes and their associated crown and magistrates’ courts (Brighton, Medway & Folkestone Magistrates’ Courts and Lewes, Maidstone & Canterbury Crown Courts). The pilot will enable us to test a revised authentication process, which will largely mirror the process in the Magistrates’ Courts.
As is the case now, participants must provide an accepted form of photographic ID (eg, driving licence or passport, plus proof of their profession like an introductory letter on headed paper or a photo identity card issued by HMPPS or the Bar Council). As with physical visits, prison staff visually verify the visitor by checking their physical appearance against their photographic ID, which must be shown prior to the prisoner being introduced to the video call.
As an additional step, CJS professionals will be asked to inform Magistrates’ and Crown Courts of their name, at least 24 hours prior to the hearing/consultation. The courts pass lists of practitioner names to the prison, who then share this information with staff running the video hearing/consultation. This means prison staff know who to expect and they can cross-reference the name with the caller ID presented over the CVP call.
To improve compliance with this process, courts will populate the pre-hearing consultation booking form with up to three previously associated defence practitioners’ names. Courts will then email law firms asking for any changes to be confirmed 24 hours before the hearing. This will help courts provide the required names to prisons in time for them to fully authenticate CVP callers.
The pilot will also seek to measure the implementation of the authentication process within courts and identify what is and is not working. Following analysis, the results will ultimately feed into a revised authentication process being rolled out across the prison and court estates.
Thank you very much for your assistance with this pilot. If you have any questions, please contact [email protected].