#023/2012 Police custody in Staffordshire – improving

Police custody provision in Staffordshire was generally positive, but needed to focus on consistency and better health care, 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 three custody suites in Staffordshire which operate 24 hours a day, in Stoke-on-Trent, Burton-on-Trent and Watling House, Gailey. Two reserve suites in Stafford and Tamworth were also inspected. Overall there were some areas of excellent practice, but some areas which still needed to be addressed.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • custody staff treated people positively and respectfully;
  • the custody suites were mainly in clean and in good condition;
  • risk assessment and risk management, including pre-release issues, were good;
  • the use of force was proportionate;
  • custody sergeants made appropriate decisions about detention and reviews were carried out on time; and
  • there was a reasonably good substance misuse service.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • although there was an appropriate oversight of the custody function, the structure wasn’t clear enough at several points: a centralised custody model had been in place for two years, but was not fully embedded in consistent standards and practice;
  • the system of organisation and delivery of health services was outdated, although custody staff did their best to work around the shortcomings;
  • clinical governance was informal at best, while clinical rooms and many aspects of medical equipment and medicines management were not up to standard;
  • there was little assistance for those with disabilities; and
  • there was insufficient provision of appropriate adults, especially for vulnerable adults in the south of the county

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“Staffordshire Police was providing decent conditions of detention, and the centralising of this function was leading to improvements. As the force moved to a fully centralised and corporate organisation of custody, it needed to focus on consistent quality of delivery, monitored and reinforced by managers locally and at senior level. There should also be attention to some particular areas, such as health services, which need to be established on more secure foundations than at the time of inspection. We expect our findings to 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 27 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 inEnglandandWalestogether 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 28 May – 1 June 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.