British Transport Police custody – generally positive

Practice varied across British Transport Police custody suites, but overall detainees were properly cared for, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection.

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British Transport Police – Joint inspection of police custody suites

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody. British Transport Police (BTP) had recently undertaken a substantial restructuring. BTP once had custody suites at key points in England, Wales and Scotland, but had taken a strategic decision to close these suites and to take people to the appropriate local force custody suite to be detained. The only suites that remained under the control of BTP were in London. Inspectors visited five custody suites open in London at Brewery Road, Central London, Ebury Bridge, Hammersmith and Wembley Park. West Ham custody suite was closed during the inspection for refurbishment.

BTP polices Britain’s railways, providing a service to rail operators, their staff and passengers. They were largely funded by the train operating companies, Network Rail, and London Underground, part of Transport for London. The nature of detainees varied enormously from people detained for vagrancy, fare evasion, mental health issues leading to offending behaviour, immigration and public order offences.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • although it was not easy for BTP to identify strategic partners because of the transient nature of the population, they developed good partnerships with the Metropolitan Police Service;
  • detainees were held in clean and well maintained facilities and staff treated them respectfully;
  • staff received custody-specific training and there was effective audit and inspection, including a detailed learning lessons procedure;
  • health care provision was adequate, with clean medical rooms which were suitably equipped and clinically satisfactory; and
  • BTP custody was rarely used as a place of safety for people with mental illness.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the pre-release risk assessments were not always completed and it was not clear how vulnerable detainees reached home; and
  • BTP’s list of interpreters was out of date and appropriate safeguarding checks and clearance to provide these services to vulnerable detainees could not be relied upon.

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British Transport Police – Joint inspection of police custody suites


  1. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  2. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
  3. Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 enables a police officer to remove someone from a public place and take them to a place of safety – for example, a police station or health care setting. It also states clearly that the purpose of being taken to the place of safety is to enable the person to be examined by a doctor and interviewed by an approved social worker, and for the making of any necessary arrangements for treatment or care.
  4. This joint inspection was carried out from 17-20 March 2014.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons (HMI Prisons press office) on 07880 787452 or Phil Gillen (HMIC Press Office) on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information.