BASILDON Crown Court has been told to clean up its act after an inspector found defendants were forced to use dirty cells covered in graffiti.

Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons, found doors and benches at the crown court and Southend Magistrates Court covered in graffiti and were dirty.

He toured 11 courts in Essex and found there were overall staffing problems, the care of defendants should have been better and there was little training for safeguarding young and vulnerable people.

He also found Basildon Magistrates’ Court did not get rid of confidential waste properly so it could be seen by anyone entering the custody office.

He made more than 20 recommendations for HM Courts and Tribunal Service and Serco Winstanton, which had been contracted to provide custody and escort services.

A courts spokesman said: “We welcome the Inspectorate’s finding that custody staff treat detainees courteously and that physical conditions at most courts, including cleanliness, were good.

“HM Courts & Tribunals Service will be working closely with Serco and NOMS to deliver a joint action plan which addresses the Inspectorate’s recommendations as soon as possible.”

A Serco spokesman added that since the inspection in January 66 custody prison officers have been recruited, more training has been introduced and a Professional Standards Team has been introduced.