Police custody facilities – joint inspections

This page sets out information about HMICFRS’s joint inspections of police custody, including:

Why we inspect police custody facilities

Police custody inspections are carried out by HMICFRS and HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), as part of the criminal just inspectorates’ joint work programme.

These inspections contribute to the UK’s response to the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, or the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

To comply with obligations under OPCAT, all places of detention must be inspected regularly to monitor treatment of, and conditions for, detainees. This approach is known as the National Preventative Mechanism (NPM). HMICFRS and HMIP are just two of the UK’s NPM members.

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Rolling programme of custody inspections

HMICFRS and HMIP have a rolling programme of unannounced police custody inspections across all 43 Home Office-funded police forces in England and Wales. The programme ensures that each force is inspected every six years, at a minimum.

We also inspect Border Force and British Transport Police custody facilities, and in 2019 our first inspection of Terrorism Act (TACT) facilities took place. For further information, see the TACT custody facilities page.

Police custody inspections assess how well each police force is fulfilling its responsibilities for the safe detention and respectful treatment of those detained in police custody. They focus on outcomes for detainees.

Assessment criteria

Custody suites are assessed against criteria set out in the Expectations for Police Custody. These criteria have been developed by the two inspectorates, through consultation with the police service. They are frequently reviewed to achieve best custodial practice and drive improvement.

The expectations set out five principal inspection areas:

  1. leadership, accountability and partnerships;
  2. pre-custody: first point of contact;
  3. in the custody suite: booking in, individual needs and legal rights;
  4. in the custody cell: safeguarding and health care; and
  5. release and transfer from custody.

The inspections also assess compliance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 Codes of Practice and the College of Policing’s ‘Authorised Professional Practice – Detention and Custody’.

Inspections of specialist custody suites assessed against criteria set out in the Expectations for Border Force Custody Suites and Expectations for TACT Custody Suites.

The welfare of vulnerable people in police custody

In 2015, HMICFRS published its thematic report on the welfare of vulnerable people in police custody. This inspection was commissioned by the Home Secretary.

The inspection focused on three groups where there was “a pronounced concern” about their treatment in police custody:

  • those with mental health conditions;
  • those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds; and
  • children.

The findings from this inspection informed our current Expectations for Police Custody, which include specific assessment criteria for these groups.

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Force reports

For inspection reports and their related press releases, please choose from the list below.

Please note: In July 2017 HMIC took on responsibility for fire & rescue service inspections and was renamed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS). Inspections carried out before July 2017 may continue to refer to HMIC.

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Related documents

Memorandum of Understanding for the Joint Inspection of Police Custody Conditions in England and Wales – Updated March 2016

Memorandum of Understanding between HM Inspectorates of Prisons and Constabulary and The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) – January 2015

Memorandum of Understanding on the Joint Inspection of Police Custody Conditions in England and Wales – Updated December 2011

Expectations for Police Custody: Criteria for assessing the treatment of and conditions for detainees in police custody – Updated April 2018 (PDF document)

Data analysis template for inspected forces to complete (Spreadsheet, 60 kB) – May 2018

Inspection evidence and logistics requirements template for inspected forces to comply with (PDF document, 320 kB) – May 2018

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