#029/2013 – Police custody in Dyfed-Powys – greater oversight needed

Dyfed-Powys Police needed to strengthen its management oversight of custody and improve staff training to ensure detainees were properly cared for, 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 five custody suites operating 24 hours a day: Newtown, Aberystwyth, Llanelli, Brecon and Haverfordwest, and two standby suites: Ammanford and Cardigan. Dyfed-Powys is one of the largest geographical police areas in England and Wales, covering a mix of mainly rural but also urban areas. To some extent the inspection findings and recommendations reflect the difficulties encountered in policing such an extensive area.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • just three Inspectors oversaw custody and they were often diverted from their custody work by other responsibilities;
  • staff not trained in, or familiar with, custody were routinely used to backfill in the custody suites because there weren’t sufficient custody sergeants and detention escort officers, which presented risks for both custody operations and detainees;
  • inadequate quality assurance in custody meant that poor detainee care could go unnoticed;
  • a lack of meaningful data about important areas such as use of force meant the force were not in a strong position from which to make informed decisions about their use of limited resources; and
  • the force needed to reduce prolonged stays in custody for those waiting to go to court and the use of police cells for people with mental health needs.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • interaction and engagement between staff and detainees was, despite the difficulties, generally good;
  • staff were polite and considerate and responded sensitively to individuals across a diverse spectrum; and
  • risk assessments were generally proportionate and sensible.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“The impact of the wide geographical area combined with the paucity of management had led to pragmatic solutions being put in pace, but with insufficient consideration given to the adverse impact on detainee care. This report provides a small 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 plan to be provided in due course.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  1. A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 30 October 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 11-19 June 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.