#014/2012 Police custody in Waltham Forest – generally positive

Police custody provision in Waltham Forest was reasonably good, 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 the custody suite in Leyton, which operated 24 hours a day. At the time of the inspection, the borough was undertaking a pilot scheme, sharing its custody facilities with the neighbouring borough of Newham. This was a positive initiative but needed greater coordination.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • strategic oversight of custody was good, although quality assurance procedures needed improvement;
  • physical conditions at the suite were very good, with clean cells, free from graffiti and ligature points;
  • interactions with detainees were good, as was the quality of initial risk assessments;
  • juveniles and vulnerable adults were well served by an appropriate adult scheme;
  • an appropriate balance was maintained between progressing cases and the rights of individuals and the Police
  • and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) was rigorously adhered to;
  • arrangements for managing DNA and forensic samples were good; and
  • support and diversion arrangements for substance misuse were well developed.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • there was a dedicated custody manager for Waltham Forest managing permanent borough custody staff, but
  • different arrangements for the Newham Borough staff working at Leyton were causing confusion;
  • there was a lack of appropriate monitoring of the use of force, as inspectors have found in other areas;
  • there was limited attention paid to diversity, in particular the needs of vulnerable adults, women and children;
  • the lack of local authority PACE beds led to some juveniles being unnecessarily detained overnight;
  • arrangements for taking complaints were poor; and
  • there was no mental health diversion or liaison service.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“Overall, custody provision in Waltham Forest was reasonably good. This report sets out a small number of recommendations that we hope will assist the Metropolitan Police Service and Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to improve the delivery of custody in the Borough Operational Command Unit further. We expect 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 22 May 2012 at http://www.justice.gov.uk/hmicfrs/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/police-cell
  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 30 January- 1 February 2012.
  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.