West Mercia Police needs to urgently improve its custody services
West Mercia Police is not providing good custody services, and some important areas of custody now require urgent attention, a report has found.
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Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) found that West Mercia Police has a clear governance structure for the safe and respectful provision of custody services.
However, HMICFRS and HMIP said these arrangements are not resulting in good custody services. The inspectorates have five main causes of concern, which are:
- the force does not have enough oversight over how custody is provided. There is no clear direction over how custody and detention officers carry out their roles and responsibilities;
- the force doesn’t always meet legal requirements, including providing detainees with information about their rights and entitlements, and the way in which reviews of detention are carried out;
- governance and oversight of the use of force in custody are limited. Information on what force is used, by which officers, or why it is necessary is often incomplete or inaccurate;
- the force isn’t always assuring detainee safety. Detainees under observation because they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs are often taken off checks too quickly. Cell checks are often grouped together and recorded on each individual’s custody record, which is poor practice; and
- detainee care is poor. Food and drink are not proactively offered or provided, and access to other aspects of care, such as washing, showers, exercise, reading materials and other activities is very limited.
The inspectorates have therefore made recommendations for West Mercia Police to address these concerns, while also highlighting an additional 11 areas for improvement.
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said:
“Anyone detained in custody should be treated fairly and kept safe from harm.
“West Mercia Police has a clear governance structure for the safe and respectful provision of custody services. However, these arrangements are not resulting in good custody services.
“Our inspection identified some critical weaknesses in how custody is provided to make sure detainees are kept safe and treated and cared for well.
“Some of the recommendations from our last inspection in 2014 have not been achieved or have only partly been achieved, leaving some important areas of custody requiring urgent attention – including management oversight of custody, governance and oversight of the use of force, risk management and detainee care. These are now causes of concern.
“More positively, the force responded quickly to our feedback during the inspection, taking action in several areas. This gives us confidence that custody services, and outcomes for detainees, will now improve.”
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- For further information, the HMICFRS Press Office can be contacted on 07836217729 or at HMICPressOffice@hmicfrs.gov.uk.