West Yorkshire police custody – a positive picture

Committed staff and managers had made further improvements to police custody in West Yorkshire and detainees were generally held safely and decently, said Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary. Today they published the report of an unannounced inspection.

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West Yorkshire – Joint inspection of police custody

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody and the second inspection of West Yorkshire police custody cells. The first inspection was in 2011 when inspectors found some areas, particularly strategic management, providing a model for other forces. Recently inspectors visited the custody suites at Leeds (Elland Road), Wakefield, Bradford, Calderdale (Halifax) and Kirklees (Huddersfield), looking at strategy, treatment and conditions, individual rights and health care. Inspectors found that the earlier progress had been sustained. The estates strategy had led to improvements in accommodation for detainees. Some of the remaining weaknesses continued to be linked to areas where the force did not have sole control.

Inspectors were also pleased to find that:

  • there continued to be strong leadership in the force in relation to custody and senior officers maintained a keen interest;
  • there was an emphasis on safeguarding and diversity;
  • the health care contract was managed efficiently and there had been progress in mental health provision, although too many detainees still did not have their mental health needs properly met;
  • following successful collaboration with local authorities, there was increased provision of alternative accommodation for children needing to be held overnight;
  • in most cases, staff treated detainees professionally and with respect and focused on keeping them safe;
  • conditions for detainees in the suites had improved and they were all now at least reasonably good; and
  • detainees usually received adequate support to make sure they were released safely.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • records of when force was used in custody suites were inadequate, not all staff were correctly trained and inspectors could not be assured that the use of restraint was always proportionate;
  • risk assessments were not always carried out promptly when detainees were first taken into custody and this, combined with delays in the booking-in process, created unnecessary risks; and
  • although fewer people had been held by the force under section 136 of the Mental Health Act as a place of safety, the figure still remained too high.

Martin Lomas and Dru Sharpling said:

“Overall, detainees held by West Yorkshire police were treated decently and in safe conditions, and this was the most positive inspection of police custody we have made for some time. Given the level of commitment shown throughout by staff and managers, we were confident the force would strive to achieve the further improvements necessary.”

Get the report

West Yorkshire – Joint inspection of police custody

Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 7 December 2016 at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons
  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 and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
  4. 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.
  5. This joint inspection was carried out from 8-22 July 2016.
  6. 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.