DOUBTS have been cast on a watchdog’s claims Scottish police took prisoners to court in underwear, pyjamas or bare feet.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIPS) last week slammed what it called “unacceptable practices” its staff witnessed on a routine visit to Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Its official report sparked a story in this newspaper and a round of condemnations from prison reformers, who warned of what they called an appalling lack of respect and “human dignity”.

However, official and unofficial sources now suggest details in the report may have been the result of innocent misunderstandings. The Herald understands a prisoner described as being in nightwear had, in fact, insisted on wearing a “onsie” jumpsuit.

Newly appointed Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor yesterday told another watchdog, the Scottish Police Authority that she had reminded custody staff of the need to provide dignity to prisoners.

But she added: “I won’t try to make any excuses when our officers treat any member of the public with less than the respect that they deserve. “However, in these particular sets of circumstances there were some issues around our ability to check that report for factual accuracy before it was published.

“As a consequence some of the material that was published - when I spoke to the custody division - was not their interpretation of the facts on the ground.”

Ms Taylor was speaking after Chief Constable Iain Livingstone described the HMIPS report as “really concerning”.

Sources suggest police custody officers would routinely provide prisoners with clothing and footwear for court if they had lost their own, which happens frequently to people in distress or trouble. Inspectors, they said, may have seen a prisoner without shoes during transportation but that does not mean that person entered court barefoot.

David Hamilton, vice chair of the Scottish Police Federation, said: “HMIPS have made a gratuitous passing comment. Police Scotland should have had the opportunity to fact check.”

Nobody at HMIPS was available for comment.