Police custody in Merseyside – a mix of positive aspects and some key concerns for inspectors

An inspection of the treatment and conditions for detainees in Merseyside Police custody found a mixture of some positive aspects and key causes of concern.

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Merseyside – Joint inspection of police custody

Criminal justice inspectors noted good health services and an emphasis on de-escalation, with force used only as a last resort and, overall, a “respectful, empathetic approach” by most staff.

The force was effective in keeping mentally ill people and children out of custody and where children were refused bail it worked actively with local partners to find alternative accommodation.

However, inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, in a joint inspection in June 2018, noted that the service delivered to detainees did not reflect the force’s strategic objectives. They highlighted three key areas for concern:

  • The force did not comply with PACE or its codes of practice – covering the treatment of people in custody – “in several areas, which needed to be addressed urgently.” 67% of first reviews were conducted while the detainee was asleep and custody staff often failed to remind detainees at the earliest opportunity that a review of their detention had taken place, which did not comply with PACE.
  • The force did not always manage detainees’ risks effectively enough to ensure their safe detention. Some staff were unaware of the need to rouse intoxicated detainees, and cell visits were carried out by different detention officers, which limited their ability to notice any changes in a detainee’s behaviour or mood over time.
  • The force’s approach to managing the demand for custody was not effective, which meant some detainees spent longer in custody than necessary. The force depended on officers working overtime, but available resources were not always deployed in the most effective way. The force did not effectively allocate detainees, which meant the Liverpool St Anne Street suite often became too busy when spaces were available in other nearby suites.

Inspectors found the suites to be dated but clean. The force responded promptly to concerns about potential ligature points. Detainees told inspectors they were well treated.

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

“This inspection of police custody facilities in Merseyside found that the provision of custody services and outcomes for detainees were mixed. The force had made some progress since our last inspection in 2012 and we found some positive elements, notably in health services and the approach to the use of force in custody. However, we identified three areas that gave us cause for concern and a number of areas requiring improvement.”

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Merseyside – 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. 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.
  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 (HMICFRS).
  4. This unannounced joint custody suite inspection was carried out between 11 – 21 June 2018. The previous inspection was in October 2012.
  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. As well as three key causes for concern in Merseyside, inspectors identified 32 areas for improvement.
  7. Please contact John Steele (HMIP Press Office) on 020 3334 0357 or 07880 787452 or the HMICFRS Press Office on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information.