#011/2012 Police custody in South Wales – good overall

Police custody provision in South Wales was well managed, but some issues needed 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 covered seven custody suites, operating 24 hours a day, in Cardiff Bay, Swansea, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath, Pontypridd, Bridgend and Ton Pentre. Three further standby custody suites were visited. Overall there were some areas of excellent practice, but some areas which still needed to be addressed.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • there was sound oversight at strategic level for custody provision, with a clear and robust management structure;
  • there were good processes for recording and learning from successful interventions and effective arrangements for disseminating good practice;
  • staffing arrangements were good and staff were very well trained;
  • staff interactions with detainees were professional, initial risk assessments were sound and health and safety procedures well established;
  • appropriate adult provision for vulnerable adults was new, but among the best inspectors have seen;
  • an appropriate balance was maintained between progressing cases and the rights of individuals; and
  • health care provision was generally good.

However, there were some concerns:

  • there was a well-advanced strategy to improve the custody estate but the physical environment of the suites was very mixed and Pontypridd needed urgent attention;
  • some safety issues in the environment were not being effectively dealt with as a result of plans to close older suites;
  • staff development was needed to raise awareness of the specific needs of vulnerable detainees;
  • the policy on the use of handcuffs needed clarification;
  • as with other forces, there was no effective process for monitoring use of force; and
  • the number of Mental Health Act section 136 detainees held was high and needed to be reduced.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“Overall, police custody provision in South Wales was good. There was clear strategic direction and good management arrangements but some important issues concerning the estate and mental health provision needed urgent attention. This report provides a small number of recommendations to assist the force and the Police Authority to improve provision further. We expect our findings to be considered and for an action plan to be provided in due course.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 27 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 and the British Transport Police.
  4. This joint inspection was carried out from 5-8 December 2011.
  5. Section 136 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.