Police Terrorism Act (TACT) custody – many positive features with recommended improvements focusing on governance
The first independent inspection of the treatment and conditions for detainees in specialist police Terrorism Act (TACT) custody suites found good care for those held.
Inspectors reported that the environment and conditions in which detainees were held in five suites in England and Wales were generally of a good standard. Detainees were treated respectfully.
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The inspection, in January and February 2019, was conducted jointly by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. It focused on the experience of the detainee in relation to custody and did not cover criminal investigations or their outcomes. Among positive features, inspectors noted that:
- Custody staff spoke to and treated detainees respectfully, and considered and maintained their dignity during their detention. Their interactions with detainees were professional and courteous throughout.
- There was good attention to meeting detainees’ individual and diverse needs. Females generally received good support and care, and custody staff were sensitive to detainees’ religious and cultural needs and took care to ensure these were met.
- Physical conditions in TACT custody suites were very good. Most cells were slightly larger than standard custody cells and had additional facilities to reflect the much longer periods that TACT detainees can be held. There was a focus on diverting children from custody, where possible. Very few children were detained but those who had been received good care.
- Overall, the report made clear there were good outcomes for detainees despite some weaknesses in governance and leadership. The inspection found some areas of concern in the provision of TACT custody – a collaboration between Counter Terrorism Policing nationally and the five forces in England and Wales which host TACT custody suites.
These areas included:
- There was no national framework or guidance within which forces could operate, resulting in inconsistent approaches to delivering TACT custody and different practices across the forces. The report recommended that Counter Terrorism Policing should provide a clear framework for delivering TACT custody, supported by national policies and guidance, within which all forces can operate.
- There was a lack of governance and oversight by senior officers in each of the forces, and the lines of accountability for TACT custody were unclear. Th report recommended that each force should strengthen its governance arrangements with senior officers taking clear accountability for the delivery of TACT custody in their force.
- Not enough information was collected or monitored at national or force level to show how well custody services were performing and whether the required standards for detainees were met. It was recommended that each force should gather and monitor comprehensive and accurate information on TACT custody to assess how well the services are performing. Counter Terrorism Policing should develop a performance framework to assess performance at a national level.
Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector or Prisons, and Wendy Williams, HM Inspector of Constabulary, said:
“Overall this was a good inspection with many positive features. Custody staff provided good care for detainees, meeting and, in some cases, exceeding required standards. The environments and conditions in which detainees were held were generally of a good standard. The main areas we identified for improvement related to governance, oversight and consistency of approaches and procedures. The network and individual forces were open to external scrutiny and, during the inspection, had already recognised and started to address some of our concerns. We were confident that the required improvements would be delivered.”
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- 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.
- On 19 July 2017 HMIC took on responsibility for fire and rescue service inspections and was renamed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services.
- 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.
- This report sets out the findings from an inspection of Terrorism Act (TACT) custody facilities in England and Wales in January and February 2019. This inspection, conducted by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), was the first one of custody facilities holding people detained for terrorism offences or terrorism-related offences. Individuals arrested for terrorism offences are detained at one of five TACT custody suites situated across the country. These detainees can be held in custody for up to 14 days, significantly longer than detainees held in mainstream custody. Because of this, there are different arrangements under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) for the detention, treatment and questioning of detainees. We set out the legal background to TACT detention in the section in the report on Context. Responsibility for the safe and respectful delivery of custody in the TACT suites rests with the chief constable of the force in which the TACT custody suite is situated. Counter Terrorism Policing oversee the provision of TACT custody and have a national strategic role in directing, coordinating and supporting TACT custody.
- This inspection assessed the effectiveness of custody services and outcomes for people detained on suspicion of terrorism offences or terrorism-related offences throughout the different stages of detention. It forms part of our wider work to inspect all police custody suites in England and Wales on a rolling programme. These inspections focus on the experience of the detainee in relation to custody and do not cover the criminal investigation or outcome of this. We examined the national framework for TACT detention suites provided through, and overseen, by Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP). There are five police forces that host a TACT custody suite, and the inspection also examined their approach to custody provision in relation to safe detention and the respectful treatment of detainees, with a particular focus on vulnerable people and children.
- This joint inspection took place between 7 January and 22 February 2019.
- 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.