#011/2010 – Police Custody in Hackney – much good practice but some areas for improvement

Police custody in Hackney was a broadly positive picture, though there was a need to extend staff training and improve the management of healthcare, said Dame Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Denis O’Connor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary, publishing the report of a joint inspection into custody suites in the London Borough of Hackney.

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody. Overall, it found a great deal of good practice and some areas of excellence. However there were also areas of concern.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • there was a clear local management structure and an active body of independent custody visitors (ICVs);
  • there was good partnership working, including with mental health service providers and the Crown Prosecution Service;
  • staff treatment of detainees was appropriate and respectful, and staff used de-escalation techniques well to defuse aggressive encounters;
  • support for those with substance misuse issues were good, and mental health services were exceptionally good; and
  • the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) were rigorously adhered to.

However, there were some concerns:

  • clinical governance of healthcare required improvement, as did oversight of attendance times by forensic medical examiners;
  • there was no specific custodial training for custody sergeants and police constable gaolers;
  • staff showed limited awareness of the specific needs of juveniles and female detainees;
  • while risk assessments were thorough, inspectors found a number of potential ligature points; and
  • although DNA samples were efficiently dealt with overall, some had not been submitted appropriately to the national DNA database.

A significant number of immigration detainees were held, and some were not expeditiously processed by the UK Border Agency.

The Chief Inspectors said:

“This inspection of custody suites in Hackney identified some good practice, but also a number of areas for improvement. In particular, staff need to be properly trained for their tasks, not least to ensure appropriate recognition of the needs of the diverse range of detainees who pass through the suites. Healthcare provision also required improved management to ensure that a comprehensive and accountable service is provided.”


Notes to editors

  1. A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 11 May 2010 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 8-13 January 2010.
  5. Please contact Robert Stansfield (HMIC Press Office) on 020 7802 1824 if you would like more information or to request an interview.