#001/2013 Police custody in Gwent – generally positive

Police custody provision in Gwent was reasonably good overall but primary health care needed some attention, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection.

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody. It looked at two full-time custody suites in Gwent: Newport Central and Ystrad Mynach. There were no reserve or non-designated suites. Overall there were some areas of excellent practice, but some areas which still needed to be addressed.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • strategic oversight of the custody function was coherent and effective;
  • the suites had sufficient capacity and were well run;
  • partnership working was well developed, with an effective independent visiting group;
  • detainees were treated properly: vulnerable people were treated with consideration and risk assessment was thorough and sensitive to individual circumstances;
  • a high level of voluntary attendance for interview suggested that detention was not overused;
  • Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) requirements were met and the courts were flexible in accepting cases on the day of arrest;
  • telephone interpreting was used for those with poor English and there was good coordination with the UK Border Agency; and
  • the substance misuse service was effective and detention of people under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act was well controlled.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • operational management, communications and initial training were generally carried out well, but lacked systematic engagement of staff in a users’ forum or refresher training;
  • preparation for release was not always thorough and at Newport, call bells were not always responded to promptly;
  • gaps in the doctors’ rota created problems, although nursing cover was adequate; and
  • the prescribing and administration of medicines were not efficient and in some respects irregular.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“Overall, the force was providing a custody operation at a reasonably good standard in most respects, with the Ystrad Mynach suite equipped and managed better than Newport in some ways. The area in which attention was especially needed was the provision of primary health care. This report provides a small number of recommendations to assist the force and the Police and Crime Commissioner to improve provision further. We expect our findings to be considered in the wider context of priorities and resourcing, and for an action plan to be provided in due course.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 22 January 2013 at http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/hmicfrs/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmipris/police-cell-inspections/gwent-2012.pdf (PDF, 502KB, new window)
  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 and authorities to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing bodies such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the British Transport Police and HMRC.
  4. This joint inspection was carried out from 11-13 September 2012.
  5. Section 136 of the Mental Health Act enables a police officer to remove someone from a public place and take them to a place of safety – for example, a police station. It also states clearly that the purpose of being taken to the place of safety is to enable the person to be examined by a doctor and interviewed by an approved social worker, and for the making of any necessary arrangements for treatment or care.
  6. Please contact Jane Parsons (HMIP Press Office) on 020 7035 2123 or 07880 787452 or Ruth Allman (HMIC Press Office) on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information or to request an interview.