#010/2012 Police custody in Tower Hamlets – improved

Police custody provision in Tower Hamlets was much improved, but there was still room for further improvement, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary, publishing the report of a follow-up inspection.

The inspection was a follow-up to a previous critical inspection of police custody suites in Tower Hamlets in 2009, and part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody. It covered two custody suites, operating 24 hours a day, in Bethnal Green and Limehouse. Overall there were some areas of good practice, but several areas which still needed to be addressed.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • a recently appointed custody manager and permanent custody staff provided the opportunity for more effective delivery, and there was good visibility of senior management in custody;
  • both custody suites were in relatively good order, cells were clean and there were no ligature points;
  • an appropriate balance was maintained between progressing cases and the rights of individuals, and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) was adhered to;
  • arrangements for managing DNA and forensic samples were improved, though some issues remained;
  • primary health care services had improved greatly and there were good links with drugs services provided by the local NHS;
  • custody was not used as a place of safety under the Mental Health Act; and
  • arrangements for taking complaints were improved and there was good analysis of them taking place.

However, there were some concerns:

  • there were still no quality assurance arrangements in place to systematically review custody records and no custody refresher training was taking place;
  • as inspectors have found elsewhere, there was a lack of appropriate monitoring of the use of force, both locally and London-wide;
  • although risk assessment was thorough, delays were leading to detainees being held in handcuffs for too long;
  • there was a high use of strip searching; and
  • the lack of local authority PACE beds led to some juveniles being unnecessarily detained in police custody overnight.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“Overall, custody provision in Tower Hamlets was much improved from the previous inspection. This report sets out a small number of recommendations that we hope will assist the MPS and Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to improve the facilities further.”


Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 20 March 2012 at http://www.justice.gov.uk/hmicfrs/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/police-cell/index.htm.
  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 22-24 November 2011.
  5. The Metropolitan Police Authority was replaced by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC) on 16 January 2012.
  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.