HMP BERWYN should become an "island" in order to combat the spread of covid-19, it has been said.

The Leader reported last week how precautionary covid-19 measures had been put in place at the site following "a small number of positive cases."

Now the Prison Officers' Association - the professional trades union for prison, correctional and secure psychiatric workers - has called for the closure of courts in order to tackle the spread of the virus in prisons.

Terry McCarthy, Prison Officers' Association rep for HMP Berwyn, said: "We are seeing people move from court into jail, then some move from one estate to another.

"There's a risk factor there and we're saying lets put a stop to all court movement and make jails islands to make them covid safe.

"Continuing to serve the courts means continuing to increase the risk.

"We have to make a stand to make our prisons more safe.

"Why increase the risk when we can put a stop on it for five or six weeks in line with the next review?"

Dafydd Roberts, a director and head of criminal law at North Wales-based Gamlins Law, said: "I understand the need to protect people from the spread of Covid-19 and to limit face-to-face contact whenever possible.

“Any closure of the courts will, however, significantly impact on the time an alleged offence will go to trial, particularly in the Crown Court.

“This not only impacts on defendants, some of whom will be children, but also on complainants and witnesses.

"The courts have stringent measures in place to ensure socially distanced hearings and many defendants will appear at their hearing via a video link from prison (if in custody).

“The existing backlog in the Courts is partly caused by the situation with Covid-19 but is also a symptom of the many years of chronic underfunding by successive governments in our justice system. Closing Courts will further exacerbate this issue.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Robust safeguards, including shielding, mass testing and limited regimes, are in place at all prisons and modelling from Public Health England found that our approach has limited transmission in this uniquely challenging environment.”

The service said it has "no plans to close courts" and is in a much stronger position to manage the impact of the pandemic on courts compared to last spring.

Public health experts have confirmed prison measures remain sufficient to deal with the new strain of the virus.

Since the beginning of the pandemic the Prison Service has taken "quick and decisive action" – backed by public health authorities– to limit the spread of the virus.

Its plan rapidly identifies and tackles outbreaks rather than pre-emptively locking down regimes before it is necessary.

The Prison Service is now routinely testing all staff and rolling out our programme to test prisoners arriving from the courts.

As a result, it has have improved its ability to identify, tackle and contain outbreaks where they occur.

In response to rising infection rates in the community, the Prison Service has introduced additional precautionary measures to all prisons in Wales to protect staff, prisoners and the local NHS.