Staffordshire police custody – a mixed picture, but most detainees held safely

Most detainees held in Staffordshire police custody suites were treated with respect and kept safely, but some improvements were necessary, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary. Today they published the report of an unannounced inspection.

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Staffordshire– Joint inspection of police custody

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody which monitor the treatment of and conditions for detainees and aim to prevent ill-treatment. It was the second inspection of police custody in Staffordshire. The first inspection was in 2012, when inspectors reported positively about the conditions of detention, but found that more work was needed to ensure that the quality of service was consistent. Inspectors also found that health care needed stronger governance.

On this more recent inspection, inspectors visited the custody suites at Stoke-on-Trent, Watling Street, Stafford and Tamworth. The Burton upon Trent suite was closed for refurbishment during the inspection. They looked at strategy, treatment and conditions, individual rights and health care. Inspectors found that most detainees were treated with respect and held in adequate conditions, but there were some concerns.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • performance information was not comprehensive and monitoring was limited, making it difficult to assess how well custody services performed;
  • in particular, governance of the use of force was poor and there was not sufficient information to show that its use was always proportionate;
  • CCTV monitoring of detainees on constant observations did not comply with professional guidance and not all of the force’s procedures and practices complied with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE);
  • although outside the force’s direct control, the arrangements for obtaining appropriate adults sometimes led to long delays; and
  • despite some progress, health services still lacked effective clinical leadership.

Inspectors were, however, pleased to find that:

  • in most cases, custody staff treated detainees with care and compassion;
  • there was effective partnership working to address the issue of detainees with mental ill health who were brought into custody as a place of safety;
  • officers used a range of alternatives to avoid taking children into custody;
  • the force was open and transparent, and the ethics transparency and audit panel, made up of members of the public, provided effective external scrutiny and reflected a desire by the police and partners to improve; and
  • the number of potential ligature points identified in the custody suite was relatively low and once highlighted, the force responded promptly.

Peter Clarke and Dru Sharpling said:

“Despite some mixed findings from this inspection, detainees in police custody in Staffordshire are likely to be held safely and decently. We are optimistic that the force has the capacity and commitment to make the changes required to provide further improvement. This report provides six recommendations to the force and highlights 26 areas for improvement and one example of good practice.”

Get the report

Staffordshire– Joint inspection of police custody


  1. A copy of the full report, published on 1 August 2017, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons 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. 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 all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
  4. Custody suites are occupied by those suspected of committing crime, and may also be used to temporarily accommodate people in need of medical attention or intervention under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. This 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.
  5. This joint inspection was carried out from 3-12 April 2017.
  6. Please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Prisons on 020 3681 2775 or Phil Gillen at HMI Constabulary on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information.