#003/2011 – Police custody in Avon and Somerset – Improvements needed

Police custody facilities in Avon and Somerset were positive in some respects but improvements were needed, particularly in safety, said Sir Denis O’Connor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary, and Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of a joint inspection into custody suites in Avon and Somerset.

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody and covered ten designated custody suites at Southmead, Broadbury Road, Trinity Road, Staple Hill, Bath, Weston-super-Mare, Bridgwater, Taunton, Minehead and Yeovil. A further seven non-designated suites were also visited.

Overall, there were some areas of good practice. However there were also areas for improvement.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the force engaged well with partners, with constructive relations with the Police Authority and an active independent custody visitor scheme;
  • there were plans in place for new (PFI) custody facilities, albeit not before 2014;
  • staff were respectful to detainees and the needs of juveniles were generally well met;
  • risk assessments on arrival were thorough;
  • interpreting services for the large number of immigration detainees held appeared adequate;
  • the provision of health services was generally good, although contracted targets for response times were not met; and
  • DNA and forensic samples were handled well.

However, there were some concerns:

  • risks arising from cell ligature points needed to be more effectively managed;
  • arrangements for detainees with mental health problems were very mixed;
  • relationships with the mental health trusts were challenging, and a large number of people were still detained in cells under the Mental Health Act;
  • the physical state of most suites was poor and require attention in the short-term;
  • use of force was not adequately monitored; and
  • pre-release risk assessments were too limited or not completed at all.

The Chief Inspectors said:

“This inspection identified some positive aspects of custody provision in Avon and Somerset. However, this report sets out a number of recommendations that we believe will assist the Chief Constable and Police Authority to improve the quality of custody provision. We expect them to consider these in the wider context of force priorities and resourcing, and to provide us with an action plan in due course.”


Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 19 January 2011 at www.justice.gov.uk/inspectorates/hmi- prisons.
  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. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the 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 and the British Transport Police and HMRC.
  4. This joint inspection was carried out from 23 August-2 September 2010.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons (HMIP Press Office) on 0207 035 2123 or 07880 787452 from 0915 to 1430 Monday to Friday or Sharon Kalina (HMIC Press Office) on 020 7802 1824 if you would like more information or to request an interview.