#028/2013 – Police custody in Derbyshire – a mixed picture

There were some areas of concern about police custody in Derbyshire, as well as some good practice, 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 operating 24 hours a day: Derby, Chesterfield and Buxton. The inspection revealed some concerns as well as some areas of excellence.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • there was a high incidence of strip searching and use of safety clothing;
  • the force’s information system was unable to provide performance data on their management of issues such as mental health, throughput in custody or incidences of use of force;
  • the force still did not have access to custody management information since the installation of the new system some 12 months earlier; and
  • detainees were held in custody for unnecessary periods due to an inappropriate use of the threshold for drink driving as the test for fitness to interview.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • custody staff were courteous and interacted well with detainees;
  • the general conditions of the custody suites were good;
  • lessons learned from the investigation of complaints about treatment in custody were disseminated to staff through a regular bulletin;
  • joint working with health services staff to obtain detainees’ medications to maintain continuity of treatment was excellent; and
  • the force had a strategic lead for mental health and there had been a reduction in the use of police custody as a place of safety under section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“The force needed to address the over use of strip searching and safety clothing and gain a reliable understanding of the higher level trends and patterns. This report provides a number of recommendations to assist the force and the Police and Crime Commissioner to improve provision further. We expect our findings to be considered in the wider context of priorities and resourcing, and for an action plant 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 2013 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 to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
  4. This joint inspection was carried out from 7-11 May 2013.
  5. Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 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 t 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 Phil Gillen (HMIC Press Office) on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information.