Human Rights wrongly blamed, again

Another day, another chance to blame Human Rights for something: ‘Prison van driven 96 miles to take defendant 60 YARDS to court as “walking will infringe his human rights”‘. The Mail claims:

A prison van travelled 96 miles to transfer a defendant just 60 yards from a police station to a court because walking would ‘infringe his human rights’.

Despite it being just a 30-second walk from Banbury Police Station to the dock, custody chiefs ordered a prison van for defendant Oliver Thomas, 27, which was sent from 96 miles away…

Judge Tom Corrie was told that to have taken the prisoner on foot from police cells to the dock would have ‘infringed his human rights’.

The transport was provided by GEOAmey which is contracted to ‘take defendants between custody and courts’. According to the Daily Mail the contract is worth £90m and they quote a GEOAmey spokesman to defend the decision to send a van:

He said: ‘Police wouldn’t expect us to turn up at Banbury and handcuff a prisoner and take him down the street and to the court. Generally speaking we don’t see that in this country.

‘It strays into the area of human rights. They have a right to have their identity protected. We normally cover Banbury from 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 been allocated to other routes and schedules.

‘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.

‘This was not a ‘one-off’ run just to deliver this prisoner.

‘Our staff collected Mr Thomas from Banbury in the morning and assisted with duties at the court until mid-afternoon then delivered prisoners to HMP Bullingdon, Bicester, and on to other prisons.

He added: ‘The decision has nothing to do with Thames Valley Police officers based in the station.’

So, the spokesman mentioned it could ‘stray’ into human rights territory but it seems to me that he spoke as a contractor who is being paid to drive people between ‘custody and courts’, how would it look if the contractor made the accused walk? Would the Mail then complain that the contractor was on a government gravy train and providing a bad service? Is the contract charged individually, or as a whole? Was this a specific ‘waste’ of taxpayers money or did it inconvenience the contractor who is getting paid for the service provided as a whole, rather than individually invoicing for each journey?

We don’t know, the Daily Mail probably doesn’t know and definitely doesn’t care as long as they get a cheap headline, a good photo op and some easy copy attacking a favourite target.

Put it another way: if we bother going through the expense of hiring vans with blacked-out windows to transport the accused from custody to court anonymously, how can it ever be right to strip the accused of public anonymity by walking them under guard and in handcuffs to court just because it means moving a van around at short notice? As the spokesman said: ‘Generally speaking we don’t see that in this country… They have a right to have their identity protected’. It is, after all, innocent until proven guilty and everyone is equal regardless of whether they might rack up a larger van bill on the day.

Which is the final point, the Mail makes a big fuss trying to work out just how much this trip cost, completely ignoring the fact that the contractor worked the journey into the schedule of the van so that it was well used by more than just this one person. Funnily enough the Mail ignores this rather less catchy headline: ‘contractor paid for by YOUR MONEY rearranges court van at short notice as efficiently as possible’.

I wonder if Richard Littlejohn will find room for this in his column tomorrow…

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