Getting Started

Please read the technical requirements section below before beginning. You can email us during office hours if you have any technical issues during the setup.

Technical requirements

Read about the internet connection and security requirements for the agent to prison video link and access a trouble shooting guide.

Step 1: Registration

Please complete and sign the video link mandate to register. There are two versions of the mandate to choose from:

A separate mandate must be completed for each solicitor within the firm who wishes to conduct visits by video link.

Once completed the mandate needs to be signed, dated and emailed to us.

Step 2: Download appropriate software to your device

You need to download and install a video conferencing software ‘client’ to your device. This is a dialling tool designed for video conferencing with appropriate security levels.

Software such as ‘FaceTime’ or ‘Skype’ cannot be used.

During trials the ‘Polycom RealPresence’ software client was successfully used. This guidance is based on the Polycom client but the principles apply to the other available options:

Installation of Polycom software client [PDF]

Set-up of Polycom [PDF]

Smartphones: Please note, because of mobile network connection issues smartphones are not recommended for making visits by video link and are not supported.

Step 3: Test visit

Under the current circumstances we cannot conduct the test.

Please ensure that you have followed the set up correctly.

Desktops & laptops

If you downloaded the Polycom software you should see the following screen when it opens:

Cut and paste the blue unique code from the scheduling email into the space provided.

  1. Select ‘Call’.
    Note: it is important to make sure you have set the software to enable SIP calls and ensure the dial is set to SIP. To do this, go to settings [the small cog symbol in the bottom right of the screen] and select ‘SIP’. The box entitled ‘Enable SIP Calls’ should be ticked.
  2. If you have dialled in at the allocated time and have used the correct SIP code you should then be connected to the relevant VC interview room in the prison.
  3. You should then follow the procedure as specified below.
  4. If you experience any connection problems you should refer to the troubleshooting guidance provided.

Tablets

Open the software client.

You will then be presented with the following Dial Pad Screen.

  1. Paste the SIP code from the scheduling email into the Dial box then select Call. If you have dialled in at the allocated time and have used the correct SIP code you should then be connected to the relevant VC interview room in the prison via a bridging system.
  2. Please ensure you copy the complete code.
  3. You should then follow the procedure as specified below.
  4. If you experience any connection problems you should refer to the troubleshooting guidance provided.

Once a connection has been established the operator will provide feedback on picture and sound quality so that the system can be configured to operate at an appropriate ‘speed’.

You cannot book a prison video link visit until you have successfully completed a test visit.

Step 4: Once registered to use VC

Step 5: Booking a visit

We will send confirmation to SPS once the test visit has been successfully completed.  SPS will then add your details to the video link booking system (please note this can take at least 24 hours).

They will then send you an email advising that you can now book prison video link visits.

You should follow the same procedure when booking a ‘visit’ by video link as for booking a physical visit by using the agents’ visits phone line at the prison. Remember to specify that you wish to conduct the visit by video link when booking.

Agents booking a visit should do so at least 24 hours in advance of the visit. However a shorter notification period may be possible if the prison is able to accommodate the request. Visits by video link can be booked up to seven days in advance

Exclusions: Currently a visit by video link should not be undertaken where:

  • An interpreter is required
  • The prisoner is considered to be vulnerable in any way
  • The prisoner requires to review/see documents or other material

Once you have booked your visit with the prison you will receive a confirmation email from tms@sps.pnn.gov.uk.. The email contains the unique code you must use when contacting the prison and confirms the date and time the visit will take place.

For added security, the confirmation from SPS will contain a pin number in addition to the dial code. To contact the prison the dial code should be entered into your device. When you are connected you should enter the PIN number followed by the # key.

Step 6: Dial in to prison to conduct video link meeting

To dial into the prison you will have to open your software client.

You must ‘dial in’ as near as possible to the time specified. Prison staff will allow no more than five minutes from the appointed start time for the agent to make the connection. Unless the agent has advised the prison of a delay or a problem, the connection will be terminated and the prisoner returned to the hall.

Once terminated the connection cannot be re-established and a fresh booking will have to be made.

What happens when a connection is made?

Once the connection is established staff at the prison will confirm your identity and the prisoner to be seen. Staff will ask to view your current law society identification card and check the practitioner number.

Once this has been carried out the prisoner will be brought into the room and the member of staff will leave so that the ‘visit’ can take place in accordance with the Prisons Rules (Scotland) Act 2011.

At the conclusion of the visit you should ensure that the connection is terminated.

It is your responsibility to advise your client of the intention to conduct the visit by video link. Prison staff will ensure the prisoner is aware of this before they enter the room.

They will explain the procedure and what the prisoner should do at the conclusion of the ‘visit’ or if there is a problem.

What happens if there is a connection failure?

You should immediately advise the agents’ visits desk that there is a problem if you are unable to successfully connect.

This will allow the prison to keep the connection to the bridge open and manage the prisoner pending a potential solution being found.

The helpdesk will assist with any connection problems and their telephone number appears on all confirmation emails.

The visit can then take place if a solution is found.

Other situations and advice

  • You should make alternative arrangements as appropriate with the prison if there is a problem which cannot be immediately rectified. Prison staff cannot help with problems experienced with your device or connection.
  • If there is a problem at the prison, staff will contact you to advise you about the problem so that alternative arrangements can be made.
  • When you cannot connect to the bridge and the helpdesk are unable to assist you should advise any prisons where you have visits scheduled of the problem so that they can be cancelled or re-scheduled, and if necessary alternative arrangements put in place.

Please contact: Gill Mulligan by email if you have any questions about this process.