CBA tackles problems of prison access for barristers

CRIMINAL barristers are being urged to give details about their experiences getting into high security prisons as part of a campaign to make access to prisoners easier.

The Criminal Bar Association is spearheading the initiative following a Prison Service crackdown on security after the breakout of six IRA prisoners from Whitemoor prison.

The association says its members are having problems securing dates, times and sufficiently long interviews with their clients on remand.

It is calling for barristers to contact it with examples of the kind of problems they are facing, as well as details of any “lawyer-friendly” visiting systems which any individual prisons have managed to set up.

This would help its negotiations with the Prison Service which was anxious to co-operate, the group adds.

Brian Barker QC, of Queen Elizabeth Building, is co-ordinating the initiative for the CBA. “There are examples of people taking up to an hour to see their clients and then being forced to cut their interviews short,” he said.

“I suspect that the main problem is lack of prison staff, but that is beyond our remit.”

He said one possible solution to the problem would be video conferencing facilities.

A Prison Service spokesman said a balance had to be struck, but higher security was an inevitable consequence of the breakouts at Whitemoor and Parkhurst. “If the CBA can come up with some good ideas then the Prison Service would consider them.”