Nottinghamshire Police custody - Day-to-day leadership lacking and many areas below standards

Inspectors found a “lack of day-to-day leadership and oversight in custody suites” in the Nottinghamshire Police force area, with key failings in the treatment and conditions of detainees.

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Nottinghamshire Police – Joint inspection of police custody

A joint report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services identified five key causes of concern requiring immediate action:

  • In “too many areas” the force was not meeting the requirements of legislation or guidance, particularly Police and Criminal Evidence Act codes of practice. Reviews of detention by inspectors were poor, particularly so in cases where they reviewed the detention of children or vulnerable adults without talking to them face-to-face.
  • The culture of the custody service was not effective in focusing on the fair and equitable treatment of all detainees and “some custody staff took punitive actions against detainees that were not justified and potentially unfair.” In some cases, cell call bells were ignored or muted.
  • The recording and reporting of “adverse incidents” in custody were not adequate in ensuring that all incidents were identified appropriately and dealt with in line with legislative requirements. Inspectors referred a case that the force should have recorded as an adverse incident directly to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
  • The governance and oversight of the use of force in custody were not adequate.
  • There was a lack of appropriate care and focus on the safe release of detainees, including the most vulnerable. The report noted: “Custody officers did not routinely ask detainees how they planned to travel home or check if they had the means to travel after their release. During the inspection, we saw detainees who were vulnerable leaving the custody suite, during the night, in pyjamas, and others released without shoes, yet staff did not notice this.”

Overall, inspectors found that staff were not always deployed in the most effective way, tasks and responsibilities were not clearly defined, and the suites, in particular the Bridewell in central Nottingham, were disorganised and at times chaotic.

Custody suites were dated, and the conditions of the suites had deteriorated since the last inspection in 2013. Inspectors noted: “Some cells were uncomfortably cold, and cleaning arrangements were not always good enough. We found potential ligature points in all three suites.”
Nottinghamshire had a focus on diverting vulnerable people away from custody. However, too many children who were charged and had bail refused were detained overnight when alternative local authority accommodation should have been provided. The report noted, though, that care for children in custody was mostly good.

On a more positive note, staff were found to be “generally patient when dealing with challenging detainees. Handcuffs were removed quickly from compliant detainees, and strip-searching was justified and properly authorised.” The care provided by custody staff to detainees was, however, inconsistent. Although most were given food and drinks at regular intervals, other aspects of care, such as access to exercise, showers and reading material, were not offered routinely.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Wendy Williams, HM Inspector of Constabulary, said:

“Overall this inspection found that many aspects of custody services were not being delivered to the standards expected or required. There had been too little progress since our last inspection in 2013, and we identified several causes of concern and areas requiring improvement.”

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Nottinghamshire Police – Joint inspection of police custody


  1. A copy of the full report, published on 26 March 2019, can be found on HMI Prison’s 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. On 19 July 2017 HMIC took on responsibility for fire & rescue service inspections and was renamed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services.
  4. HMICFRS is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMICFRS inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies. HMICFRS will inspect all 45 fire and rescue services in England.
  5. This report is part of a programme of unannounced inspections of police custody carried out jointly by the two inspectorates and which form a key part of the joint work programme of the criminal justice inspectorates. These inspections also contribute to the United Kingdom’s response to its international obligation to ensure regular and independent inspection of all places of detention. The inspections look at strategy, treatment and conditions, individual rights and health care.
  6. This report describes the findings following an unannounced inspection between 1 and 13 October 2018 of three suites, containing 113 cells, in Bridewell (Nottingham city centre), Mansfield and Newark. Nottinghamshire Police is part of a regional collaboration with three neighbouring forces (Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire) under section 22 of the Police Act 1996. The East Midlands Criminal Justice Service is responsible for policy, training and resources for custody across the four forces, and some governance functions.
  7. Please contact John Steele (HMIP Press Office) on 020 3334 0357 or 07880 787452 or the HMICFRS Press Office on 020 3513 0634 if you would like more information.