• There were two separate contractors – Serco and G4S – delivering court custody services at the time of the inspection. Overall, the inspection found that both contractors were performing well.
  • Serco had suffered a large amount of negative publicity following a series of escapes in 2013–2014. The most high profile of these involved the escape of two prisoners from a secure vehicle at Geraldton airport, and four separate incidents of prisoners escaping while being escorted to hospital. There was inevitably much criticism of Serco’s performance as contractor.
  • However, the inspection found that Serco’s performance in the area of court custody (as distinct from prisoner transport) under the CSCS Contract had improved since the 2012–2013 inspection. Serco had been responsive to the recommendations from the 2013 inspection report, and had either addressed or made acceptable progress against all of them.
  • In particular, Serco had actively addressed specific concerns about staff culture and morale at certain sites. Indeed, staff culture and morale had improved markedly at all sites. This was all the more noteworthy given the pressure that Serco was under following the spate of escapes in 2013–2014. There had been a need to improve performance and re-engage staff following these incidents, and Serco had responded by driving a focus on refresher training to reconnect staff with their duties and obligations. Senior managers had also made special efforts to increase contact and visibility at sites throughout the state. As a result, the vast majority of Serco staff presented as positive and engaged with their jobs.
  • Since the 2012–2013 inspection, new court facilities had opened at Kalgoorlie, Kununurra and Carnarvon. Serco had also taken on court custody services at Perth Children’s Court. These new facilities and services had all been incorporated successfully into the wider Serco operation, as had the new secure unit at Fiona Stanley Hospital.
  • In contrast to Serco, G4S and Western Liberty Group had avoided public attention in running the Central Law Courts and District Court Building. In comparison to the CSCS Contract, the DCB Contract has the benefit of stability – the contract term is 25 years (commenced in 2008). G4S had consolidated performance under the DCB Contract and was delivering services at a high standard. The District Court and CLC court custody centres were operating effectively and G4S officers were managing people in custody well. Relationships with stakeholders had been further strengthened and satisfaction with the service was high.
  • One of the more concerning findings from the inspection was the common theme of depletion of monitoring resources across both contracts.
  • Since the 2012–2013 inspection, the monitoring team in DCS had been cut by more than half. As a result, the level of on-site monitoring had dropped, particularly at regional sites. Most regional sites reported that it had been 12 months or more since they had last been visited by a monitoring officer.
  • And, paradoxically, the scope of the DCS monitoring team had been expanded enormously in late-2015. Previously, the monitors only had responsibility for overseeing services delivered by the private contractors ­ (court security and custodial services, Acacia Prison, and more recently Wandoo Reintegration Facility). Now, the scope of the monitoring team includes all 15 publicly-operated custodial facilities.
  • Budget limitations within DotAG meant that there were no other staff, apart from the contract manager, dedicated to contract management for the DCB Contract. Consequently, on-site monitoring of contractor performance was largely non-existent. DotAG was reliant on G4S to self-report on contractual compliance and performance. The DCS Commissioner is principal to the DCB Contract, and in the past, DCS monitors have had a regular presence at the District Court Building and the Central Law Courts. This was no longer the case in 2015–2016.
  • The importance of a robust monitoring system cannot be overstated. The state may contract in services, but it retains its duty of care to people in custody. Close monitoring of the contractor’s performance is key to ensuring appropriate standards are maintained, and the state’s duty of care is upheld.
  • On 16 June 2015, the Minister for Corrective Services announced that the Government would re-tender the CSCS Contract. The re-tender process was ongoing during the inspection. On 31 August 2016, Broadspectrum Australia was named as the preferred respondent, replacing Serco, with transition scheduled for the end of March 2017.
Page last updated: March 9, 2017
108: Inspection of Court Custody Centres