#042/2010 – Police Custody in Bedfordshire – Generally Positive

Police custody in Bedfordshire was a generally positive picture, though there were some improvements needed, said Sir Denis O’Connor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary, and Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of a joint inspection into custody suites in Bedfordshire.

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody and covered three primary custody suites at Bedford, Luton and Dunstable and a further part-time suite at Ampthill.

Overall, the inspection found that custody was a clear strategic priority although the estate still required significant attention. There were some areas of excellent practice, as well as areas for improvement.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • relations between staff and detainees were generally good and the needs of juveniles were well met;
  • staff completed a dignity questionnaire on arrival of detainees, covering a range of issues relevant to their care and welfare;
  • handling and management of DNA and forensic samples within custody appeared good, although there were unexplained backlogs elsewhere in the system;
  • health care services were generally good, with access to health care professionals within reasonable timescales; and
  • substance misuse services were good.

However, there were some concerns:

  • while all staff received appropriate training, some detention officers were deployed before receiving the formal training;
  • the three main suites were old and although well decorated, were generally very dirty;
  • most cells had multiple ligature points, many due to old cell design, and not all staff carried anti-ligature knives; and
  • there were too many detainees being held in police custody under section 136 of the mental health act.

The Chief Inspectors said:

“This inspection identified a generally positive picture of custody provision in Bedfordshire. However, this report sets out a number of recommendations that we believe 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 23 November 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 2-4 August 2010.
  5. Please contact Jane Parsons (HMIP Press Office) on 0207 035 2123 or 07880 787452 from 0915 to 1430 Monday to Friday or Sharon Kalina (HMIC Press Office) on 020 7802 1824 if you would like more information or to request an interview.