#020/2010 – Police Custody in Merton – generally positive

Police custody in Merton was generally positive, but there were some issues about staffing, health services and support for vulnerable detainees, said Sir Denis O’Connor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary, and Nigel Newcomen, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of a joint inspection into custody suites in the London Borough of Merton.

The inspection covered the custody suite in Wimbledon. Overall, it found some good practice and some areas of excellence.

Inspectors found that:

  • relationships between staff and detainees were professional and relaxed;
  • risk assessments were thorough; and
  • there were appropriate relationships with the independent custody visitors scheme and good links with the police authority.

However, there were also areas of concern:

  • the staffing model relied too heavily on temporary sergeants and constables, drawn from operational policing teams;
  • there were underdeveloped strategic and operational links to mental health services;
  • there was limited awareness of the specific vulnerabilities of women and juveniles; and
  • although the requirements of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) were adhered to, this meant appropriate adults were not sought for 17-year-olds.

The Chief Inspector and Deputy Chief Inspector said:

“In general, this is a positive report. It does, however, raise some systemic issues about the staffing of custody suites, the support available for vulnerable detainees, and the oversight of health services. We hope that its recommendations will be helpful to the Metropolitan Police Service and the borough commander in continuing to improve custodial conditions and treatment in Merton.”


Notes to editors

  1. Separate inspections of three London Boroughs (Bexley, Merton and Kingston) were carried out between 6 and 28 April 2010 as part of an ongoing programme of joint inspections of police custody conditions. The programme is projected to be over a six-year period, during which time all police forces in England and Wales, and all London Boroughs will be inspected at least once each.
  2. All the boroughs subject of these reports are policed by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), but most aspects of the provision of custody services are the responsibility of local command teams and therefore areas of concern will normally need to be tackled at that level. In addition, there are some aspects of policy and strategic management which are handled at the force level and some recommendations in individual reports are therefore directed more widely to the MPS and/or the Metropolitan Police Authority.
  3. The three reports (Bexley, Merton and Kingston) have been published together to provide an opportunity for both local and force level response, but reducing the overall administrative impact that separate publication might create for the MPS and MPA.
  4. These joint inspections were carried out: Merton: 6-8 April 2010; Kingston: 7-9 April 2010; and Bexley: 26-28 April 2010.
  5. A copy of each of the full reports can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 4 August 2010 at www.justice.gov.uk/inspectorates/hmi- prisons.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Please contact Jane Parsons (HMI Prisons press office) on 020 7035 2123 or 07880 787452 or Robert Stansfield (HMIC Press Office) on 020 7802 1824 if you would like more information or to request an interview.