#009/2011 Police custody in Lincolnshire – improvements needed

Police custody facilities in Lincolnshire needed more strategic focus, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary, publishing the report of a joint inspection into custody suites in Lincolnshire.

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody and covered five custody suites serving Lincoln, Skegness, Boston, Grantham and Spalding. Overall, there were some areas of good practice. However there were also areas for improvement.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • relations with the Police Authority were positive and there was a well-supported independent custody visitor scheme;
  • interactions witnessed between staff and detainees were professional, and custody suites were clean;
  • a positive approach was taken to balancing the priorities of progressing cases and ensuring detainees’ rights under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act;
  • the management of forensic samples was generally sound; and
  • the provision of health care services was satisfactory and substance misuse services were good.

However, there were some concerns:

  • confusion about strategic arrangements for custody during the wider restructuring of the force had led to weaknesses in management oversight;
  • consistent performance was inhibited by the widespread use of constables to cover civilian detention officers and the tendency for custody sergeants to only stay in post for short periods;
  • too little attention was paid to the specific needs of different groups of detainees, such as women, children or those with disabilities;
  • the quality of risk assessments was variable, with too little evidence of staff awareness of the importance of rousing intoxicated detainees;
  • there were numerous ligature points in cells and health and safety monitoring was inconsistent;
  • mental health provision was extremely poor, and in too many cases, police stations were used as places of safety under the Mental Health Act, rather than detainees being taken to community provision.

Nick Hardwick and Dru Sharpling said:

“Overall, this is a disappointing inspection. It came at a time when the force was undergoing significant change, which perhaps helped explain why we identified continued failings that had been previously identified by other external bodies. More strategic emphasis on custody was required, with particular attention to improving risk assessment and mental health services. This report sets out a number of recommendations that we hope will assist the Chief Constable and the 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 27 May 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 10-13 January 2011.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons (HMIP Press Office) on 0207 035 2123 or 07880 787452 from 0915 to 1430 Monday to Friday or Ruth Allman or Angharad Thomas (HMIC Press Office) on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information or to request an interview.