#022/2010 – Police Custody in Bexley – generally positive

Police custody in Bexley was generally positive, but some improvements could be made, 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 Bexley.

The inspection covered the single designated custody suite in Bexleyheath. Overall, it found some good practice and some areas of excellence. However there were also areas of concern.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • there was a clear management structure overseeing custody, with sufficient numbers of trained and well-supported staff;
  • de-escalation of volatile detainees was well managed;
  • relationships between staff and detainees were generally relaxed and respectful;
  • risk assessments were good when booking in detainees, and records generally excellent;
  • there was good partnership working with local health care providers and mental health services were good; and
  • forensic samples were well managed.

However, there were some concerns:

  • some improvements could be made in shift patterns and in access to appropriate management information: in particular information about use of force was not collated locally or London-wide to allow patterns and trends to be monitored;
  • the suite was clean but tired, and a number of ligature points were identified;
  • there was limited awareness of the specific vulnerabilities of women and juveniles;
  • while the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) were properly adhered to, this meant that appropriate adults were not sought for 17-year-olds; and
  • the quality of health care was mixed and the Borough Operational Command Unit needed to take a firmer grip of monitoring provision.

The Chief Inspector and Deputy Chief Inspector said:

“Overall, this inspection of police custody in Bexley offers a generally positive picture, but with scope for improvement in a number of areas. Accordingly, this report sets out a number of recommendations that we believe will assist the Metropolitan Police Service and Metropolitan 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. Some recommendations also have national implications, and we will progress these directly with the appropriate authorities.”


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.