#012/2010 – Police Custody in Surrey – generally good, but scope for improvement

Police custody in Surrey was a generally positive picture, though some improvements were needed, said Dame Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Denis O’Connor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary, publishing the report of a joint inspection of Surrey custody suites.

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody and covered the four custody suites at Guildford, Staines, Woking and Reigate and a suite at Farnham that is now no longer used. Overall, the inspection found much good practice and some areas of excellence. However there were also areas of concern.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • a clear management structure was in place;
  • partnership working was generally effective, including good relationships with the Police Authority and a strong independent custody visitor (ICV) scheme;
  • Surrey was developing specific use of force policies for custody;
  • relationships between staff and detainees were generally relaxed and respectful;
  • the quality of accommodation varied, but was uniformly clean; and
  • the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) were adhered to, though this meant appropriate adults were not sought for 17-year-old juveniles.

However, there were some concerns:

  • there was a need to review the current staffing model and ensure appropriate rotation of custody officers;
  • all detainees tended to be treated alike instead of addressing particular vulnerabilities, such as age, gender or disability;
  • risk assessments did not always take into account information from the local intelligence system and Police National Computer;
  • inspectors found numerous ligature points in some suites, requiring urgent action, and better staff training to identify such risks; and
  • there were serious weaknesses in the management of DNA samples.

Healthcare findings were mixed. Clinical governance arrangements and medicine management were good and medical facilities were excellent. However, management of healthcare contracts needed to be more robust to ensure timely attendance from healthcare providers, while mental health and substance misuse support was limited.

The Chief Inspectors said:

“This inspection of custody suites in Surrey has identified a generally positive picture, but with scope for improvement in certain areas. Accordingly, this report sets out a number of recommendations that we believe will assist managers and the Police Authority to improve the quality of custody provision. We expect these recommendations 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 9 June 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 1-5 February 2010.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons (HMIP Press Office) on 0207 035 2123 or 07880 787452 from 0915 to 1430 Monday to Friday or Robert Stansfield (HMIC Press Office) on 020 7802 1824 if you would like more information or to request an interview.