Kent Police custody – not enough progress

Other than in health care, standards had not improved at police custody suites in Kent, which was disappointing, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary. Today they published the report of an unannounced inspection.

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Read Kent – Joint inspection of police custody suites

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody and the second inspection of Kent police custody suites. The first inspection was in 2010. For this more recent inspection, inspectors visited the following full-time custody suites: Medway, Northfleet, Canterbury, Folkestone, Maidstone, Margate and Tonbridge. Overall, there was insufficient focus on the care of children in custody and almost half of the recommendations from the previous inspection remained unachieved.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • although data showed that the proportion of children arrested in Kent compared favourably with the rest of England and Wales, there were more children in Kent custody suites than in other custody suites;
  • compliant children were routinely handcuffed on arrest or for the long journey to court which was, in some instances, disproportionate;
  • the quality assurance process was weak and insubstantial;
  • risk assessment and subsequent management of risk was poor;
  • investigation of offences progressed too slowly and sometimes was handed over to the next shift, which caused delays in contacting and acquiring appropriate adults for vulnerable detainees; and
  • virtual courts were not used efficiently which sometimes resulted in detainees staying longer in custody than necessary.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • most custody staff took a professional approach to their work, providing a good standard of care to detainees;
  • interactions between staff and detainees were polite and courteous; and
  • health care provision was good, mental health provision was excellent, and significant progress had been made in reducing the number of vulnerable detainees held in police custody under the provision of section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“This was the second inspection of Kent Police, the first being in 2010. We were disappointed to find, other than in health care, standards had not improved. There was insufficient focus on the care of children in custody and almost half the recommendations, from the previous inspection, remained unachieved. It was clear from the progress made in health care that with appropriate strategic oversight at a senior officer level, championing a cause can have major benefits for detainees and the police service.”

Get the report

Read Kent – 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 2-11 June 2014.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons (HMI Prisons) on 07880 787452 or Phil Gillen (HMIC) on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information.