#021/2012 Police custody in Lewisham – clearly improved

Police custody provision in Lewisham had seen significant improvements in the recent past but further improvements could be made, 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 the main custody suite in Lewisham which operates 24 hours a day. A further suite in Catford was currently being used by the neighbouring borough of Southwark. Only the physical environment of the Catford suite was included in this report, not the operations. Overall there were some areas of good practice, but some areas which still needed to be addressed.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • there was a robust governance structure, with dedicated managers and permanent, suitably trained staff and good visibility of senior managers;
  • the processes of initial risk assessment and care planning were carried through well;
  • care of detainees was good; and
  • the standard of primary health care and medicines management was good, although some issues of cleanliness needed to be addressed.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • there was insufficient control of the suite, especially at pressure times, and detention officers and custody assistants did not work together to best effect;
  • non-custody staff were allowed free access to the cell area, and detention reviews were not always properly carried out;
  • there were shortfalls in the timely availability of interpretation, whether in person or by telephone;
  • pre-release planning was frequently cursory or absent; and
  • there were some gaps in mental health provision and staff had not been trained in mental health awareness.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“Overall, the custody function in Lewisham was moving in the right direction, and further improvement will depend largely on greater clarity and consistency in the roles played by staff at all levels in the suite itself, together with the specific recommendations set out below. 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.”


Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 18 September 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 8-10 May 2012.
  5. 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.