Greater Manchester Police custody – significant improvements

Police custody in Greater Manchester had improved, but could make further progress, said Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary. Today they published the report of an unannounced inspection.

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Greater Manchester – Joint inspection of police custody

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody and the second inspection of Greater Manchester Police custody cells. The first inspection was in March 2012. Since then, there have been various improvements and the force has responded well to lessons learnt and recommendations. Inspectors visited the custody suites at North Manchester, Longsight, Cheadle Heath, Bury, Bolton, Ashton under Lyne, Swinton, Pendleton and Wigan, looking at strategy, treatment and conditions, individual rights and health care.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • there was good partnership working with mental health organisations and local authorities;
  • the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner was actively involved in improving facilities for people needing mental health support; resulting in dedicated places of safety in three of the four health trust areas with which Greater Manchester police worked;
  • staff interaction with detainees was mostly good, but inconsistent;
  • the force had developed a risk assessment tool which sergeants were able to tailor and adapt and inspectors saw some excellent interactions between staff and detainees when completing risk assessments;
  • appropriate adult schemes for vulnerable prisoners were good; and
  • health care overall was adequate and mental health provision had improved considerably.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • custody staff did not record, monitor or analyse the use of force, which would have provided learning opportunities, supported the prevention of force being used inappropriately and helped to ensure staff accountability;
  • written records did not always reflect the standard and quality of risk assessments which took place;
  • health care response times were not always met because of the exceptionally high demand; and
  • most suites did not have effective drug and alcohol services.

Martin Lomas and Dru Sharpling said:

“Greater Manchester Police had made some promising and significant improvements since the previous inspection. In our view, however, limited management and performance data in relation to custody issues had hindered what could have been further progress. For example, there was no data on strip-searching, the use of voluntary attendance or the length of time immigration detainees were held. We saw some excellent staff interactions and useful risk assessment, but poor recording often undermined this.”

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Greater Manchester – Joint inspection of police custody


  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, from a public place, someone who they believe to be suffering from a mental disorder and in need of immediate care and control, and take them to a place of safety – for example, a health or social care facility, or the home of a relative or friend. In exceptional circumstances (for example if the person’s behaviour would pose an unmanageably high risk to others), the place of safety may be police custody. Section 136 also states that the purpose of detention is to enable the person to be assessed by a doctor and an approved mental health professional (for example a specially trained social worker or nurse), and for the making of any necessary arrangements for treatment or care.
  4. This joint inspection was carried out from 5-14 January 2016.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Prisons press office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452, or Phil Gillen (HMIC) on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information.