North Wales Police custody - improved and generally well managed

Police custody in North Wales had improved and was generally positive, 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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North Wales – 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 North Wales Police custody suites. The first inspection was in September 2010. For this more recent inspection, inspectors visited the full-time custody suites at Caernarfon, St Asaph and Wrexham and the part-time suites at Dolgellau and Holyhead. Shortly before the inspection, North Wales Police had used joint inspection criteria to make its own assessment of its custody operation, which was commendable.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • custody was mostly well managed;
  • there were good provisions for learning and disseminating information among staff;
  • the suite at Wrexham had been improved and plans were well advanced for the provision of a new suite there;
  • staff related to detainees in a professional and courteous manner, using excellent interpersonal skills;
  • staff were able to identify vulnerabilities and in most instances they provided the appropriate level of care;
  • there was a good focus on upholding detainees’ rights, alternatives to arrest were well used and detention times were mostly kept to a minimum;
  • health care in custody was generally good and substance misuse services were also held in high regard;
  • the mental health provider accepted referrals from nurses; and
  • for a year, there had been a commendable reduction in the use of police custody as a place of safety for people detained by police under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. However, very recently the overall uses of section 136 had risen significantly. The force should satisfy itself that officers are using their powers proportionately.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • some data collection and analysis was inadequate, including recording the use of force and requests for alternative accommodation for children facing detention;
  • far more detainees were strip-searched at St Asaph than at the other suites and the reasons for this discrepancy had not been identified; and
  • appropriate adult services were of variable quality.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“This report recognises a range of achievements by North Wales Police in their custody provision. It makes a number of recommendations to the force and the Police and Crime Commissioner concerning the comparatively small number of areas where outcomes for detainees were less good, to help the force address those as well. We expect an action plan to be provided in due course.”

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North Wales – Joint inspection of police custody suites

Notes to editors

  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 29 September-3 October 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.