• 15/06/2015


* For the purposes of this protocol, the term ‘professional court user’ is used to refer to those parties, as defined by the CJS Efficiency Programme, which are drawn from a range of professional roles across the CJS, including prosecutors, defence solicitors, barristers, pupil barristers, legal executives, Youth Offending Team staff, social workers, intermediaries, Probation Service staff, drug referral workers and interpreters. Other professional parties that are not listed here, but which would reasonably qualify for inclusion within the scope of this range, should be accorded the same degree of access.

** For the purposes of this protocol, IT does not include mobile and smart phone devices (to be understood to mean those devices manufactured, marketed and sold as such).  

This protocol supersedes the ‘Protocol for Legal Advisers’ Use of IT’ at 10 early adopter courts (Birmingham Magistrates’ Court, Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court, Croydon Crown Court, Birmingham Crown Court, Cardiff Magistrates’ Court, Bromley Magistrates’ Court, Sefton Magistrates’ Court, North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, Chelmsford Crown Court and Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court), dated November 2014. That protocol, in turn, superseded the Protocol for Legal Advisers’ Use of IT during the Pilot at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court and Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court – Digital Working, dated June 2013. The terms set out in this document are extended to professional court users and all criminal courts in England and Wales in which Professional Court-User Wi-Fi (PCU WiFi) is installed, and remains current until such time as instruction to the contrary is issued.  

Prison Service Instruction (PSI) 10/2012 ‘Conveyance and Possession of Prohibited Items and Other Related Offences’ permits legal advisers to bring into court holding areas and cells, IT equipment that is necessary for consultation with their clients. This is permissible only under certain conditions, one of which is that Wi-Fi, 4G, 3G or other internet connectivity is switched off or otherwise disabled.

Professional court users visiting criminal courts in England and Wales are permitted to use IT equipment in court holding areas and cells with internet connectivity enabled without a prisoner present, but when a prisoner is present with the user, the following restrictions must be observed:

  • Wi-Fi and other network capabilities are disabled prior to the arrival of the prisoner and for the duration of the session.
  • Internet connection devices (i.e. dongles, mi-fi devices and tethered smart phones for the purpose of enabling associated IT) are removed from the equipment and area prior to the arrival of the prisoner and securely held.
  • No prisoner is to be allowed direct access to the Internet, telephone, video calls or other means of communication without prior authority given by the relevant prison.

The following conditions contained within Prison Service Instruction (PSI) 10/2012 Conveyance and Possession of Prohibited Items and Other Related Offences in respect of IT equipment within court areas must continue to be observed:

  1. Computers should be small, self-contained portable devices such as laptop computers or tablets. External devices such as external keyboards, printers or mice, etc are not authorised other than external data media.
  2. Computer equipment may contain built-in cameras but, if so fitted, the camera may not be used to take photographs or video within the court holding area or cell.
  3. Computer equipment may contain a sound recording device. Professional courts users are authorised to make sound recordings of their clients for the purposes of advising them on the matter for which they are so engaged and in doing so may use computer equipment for this purpose rather than bringing into the holding area or cell a separate sound recording device.
  4. No data or items of equipment may be passed to the prisoner with the intention of this remaining in the possession of the prisoner after the consultation. Separate procedures exist under “Access to Justice” arrangements (see National Security Framework, Function 2 Communication and Surveillance) to enable the prisoner to have possession within prison of IT equipment and legal documents in electronic format.  Any requests for data, or IT equipment, to be passed to the prisoner to be retained after the consultation, should be declared to the holding prison, and not NOMS staff or contractors at court, and then considered under ‘Access to Justice Laptop’ arrangements within the prison.
  5. Professional court users are responsible for all equipment brought into the court holding areas and cells and should ensure they have all items with them when they leave. Loss of such items in prisoner areas is a serious matter and all losses must be reported to NOMS staff or contractors immediately.
  6. The NOMS Agency or contractors can not be held responsible for the loss or damage to equipment brought in to the court holding areas or cells or for the availability of PCU Wi-Fi connectivity.


  1. Any breach or suspected breach of instruction contained in this protocol must be referred to the court manager for consideration to be given to the appropriate course of action to take.
  2. Any complaints about the operation of this process that cannot be resolved with the court manager should be made via the appropriate court cluster manager. General queries on national policy in these areas can be made to NOMS headquarters via e-mail to [email protected]

Security Group
National Offender Management Service
March 2015