Police custody in Havering – good overall

Police custody in Havering was generally positive, 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 custody suite serving the London Borough of Havering within the Metropolitan Police Service, the suite of 14 cells in Romford.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the borough commander provided strategic leadership for custody, and custody was discussed at a range of meetings;
  • staffing arrangements were reasonable;
  • detainees were well cared for and interactions with detainees were good, particularly with young people;
  • the suite was clean, with minimal graffiti;
  • the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) was adhered to;
  • young people and vulnerable adults were well served by an appropriate adult scheme; and
  • custody was rarely used as a place of safety under the Mental Health Act 1983.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • as with other police forces, there was a lack of appropriate monitoring of the use of force, both locally and London-wide;
  • there was a culture of keeping detainees in custody overnight, rather than pursuing their cases, partly due to a lack of available staff at certain times;
  • although risk assessments were generally reasonable, pre-release risk assessments were often perfunctory;
  • nurses had recently been withdrawn from the suite, which had caused concern for custody staff because of delays in getting forensic medical examiners (FMEs) to arrive at the suite; and
  • there was no mental health liaison scheme, which led to delays in getting detainees assessed.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“Overall, custody provision in Havering was good, with evidence of consideration and care being given to detainees. However, some detainees stayed in custody for too long and the new staffing model had resulted in any sense of a ‘team spirit’ being lost. The lack of nurses and the reliance on an overstretched FME service was of concern, and mental health services needed developing. This report provides a small number of recommendations to assist the force and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime 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.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 7 January 2014 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. 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 or health care setting. It also states clearly that the purpose of being taken to the place of safety is to 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.
  5. This joint inspection was carried out from 30 July-1 August 2013.
  6. Please contact Jane Parsons (HMIP Press Office) on 07880 787452 or Phil Gillen (HMIC Press Office) on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information.