South Wales police custody – significant progress made

Police custody in South Wales had improved and the force seemed committed to sustaining those improvements, said Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary. Today they published the report of an unannounced inspection.

Get the report

South Wales – Joint inspection of police custody

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody and the second inspection of South Wales police custody cells. The first inspection was in December 2011. Recently inspectors visited the custody suites at Cardiff Bay, Swansea, Merthyr Tydfil and Bridgend, looking at strategy, treatment and conditions, individual rights and health care.

Inspectors found that the leadership and management of custody were strong and there was a clear vision about what was required, with a coherent plan for custody, based firmly on making the best use of resources while providing safe and decent conditions for detainees. Managers were aware of weaknesses that existed and appeared committed to addressing them.

Inspectors were also pleased to find that:

  • there had been some significant improvements in the way performance was managed, and this was closely linked to better information gathering;
  • the physical environment had improved and all of the suites were now relatively modern;
  • partnership working was developing well, including joint work to address concerns about people detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act being taken into custody, and children being detained in custody overnight. As a result, the number of vulnerable adults being detained was reducing, however, the positive impact on children was less clear;
  • there had been a welcome increase in focus on equality and diversity since the previous inspection and staff mostly demonstrated a good awareness about the needs of minority groups, although more needed to be done to address the needs of women and children;
  • the relationships between staff and detainees in the custody suites were consistently respectful;
  • the provision of health care was generally good;
  • there were some positive elements within pre-release planning, including a strong focus on welfare; and
  • working relationships with the courts were sound and this generally resulted in detainees being dealt with promptly.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • in a small number of cases, police custody had been used as a place of safety for a child, which was unacceptable;
  • until very recently, despite a previous recommendation, the use of force had not been monitored;
  • the way detainees were booked in and advised of the reasons for their arrest did not meet Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) requirements, and needed to be corrected immediately; and
  • staff did not receive adequate training on safeguarding and appropriate adult scheme was not always responsive enough for children.

Martin Lomas and Dru Sharpling said:

“Overall, this was a positive inspection and significant progress had been made in key areas within custodial services. A certain standard for treatment and conditions in custody had been set by the force and this had helped to bring about improvements in the day-to-day environment for detainees. Greater attention was now being paid to the needs of minority groups and, importantly, fewer vulnerable adults were being held. Where weaknesses existed, such as the relatively high number of children still being held in custody and the lack of governance surrounding the use of force, action was being taken to address them. We believe there is a strong commitment within the force to sustain these types of improvement.”

Get the report

South Wales – Joint inspection of police custody

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 11-22 April 2016.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Prisons on 020 3681 2775 or Candy Silver at HMI Constabulary on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information.