Lincolnshire police custody – insufficient progress

Police custody in Lincolnshire had not improved sufficiently since its last inspection, 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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Lincolnshire – Joint inspection of police custody

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody and the second inspection of Lincolnshire Constabulary custody suites. The first inspection was in January 2011 and was described as disappointing. This more recent inspection found the situation had not improved and that progress had been insufficient. Many recommendations made previously had not been achieved. Inspectors visited custody suites at Lincoln, Boston, Grantham and Skegness.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • strategic leadership required improvement;
  • the collection of performance data in some key areas, particularly in relation to vulnerable detainees, was inadequate;
  • the number of people detained in police custody under section 136 of the Mental Health Act was still too high;
  • staff were not held sufficiently accountable for the practices they employed in the custody suites as there was no monitoring of the use of force or strip-searching;
  • although staff interacted well with detainees, there were inconsistencies in the way detainees’ risks were managed;
  • it was common practice for vulnerable adults and children to have their fingerprints, DNA and photograph taken without the support of an appropriate adult (AA) and, in some cases, without understanding what was taking place;
  • the lack of a 24-hour AA service prolonged the detention of children;
  • the complaints system was inadequate and there was no guidance from the force outlining the process; and
  • detainees sometimes experienced long delays in receiving appropriate care by health care professionals.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that organisations providing substance misuse services were good.

Martin Lomas and Dru Sharpling said:

“Lincolnshire police had made insufficient progress since the previous inspection. Better strategic oversight and working with partners to ensure safe and appropriate detention for the most vulnerable detainees was needed. Systems for checking the practice of custody staff and officers across the custody suites were insufficient to provide reassurance that detainees were held safely and staff were supervised or monitored. The report is critical of police custody being used too often as a place of safety under section 136 of the Mental Health Act, although the street-based mental health triage service and diversion schemes were good starts to reversing this trend. This report provides recommendations to the force and the Police and Crime Commissioner to improve provision further. We expect our findings to be considered and for an action plan to be provided in due course.”

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Lincolnshire – Joint inspection of police custody


  1. A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 19 February 2016 on the HMI Prisons website.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. This joint inspection was carried out from 23-29 September 2015.
  6. Please contact Phil Gillen (HMIC) on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information.