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

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).

Who we work with

HMICFRS leads the programme of police custody inspections. We work with the Care Quality Commission, which inspects health outcomes for detainees..

Between 2008 and July 2022, police custody inspections were carried out by HMICFRS and HM Inspectorate of Prisons, as part of the criminal justice inspectorates’ joint work programme.

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Rolling programme of custody inspections

Police custody inspections are unannounced and are carried out on a rolling programme across all 43 Home Office-funded police forces in England and Wales. The programme ensures that each force is inspected regularly inspected.

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 and other relevant stakeholders . 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 continue to inform our approach to police custody inspections, reflecting our focus on vulnerable and child detainees.

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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

Expectations for Police Custody: Criteria for assessing the treatment of and conditions for detainees in police custody (PDF document) – Updated June 2022

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

Inspection evidence and logistics requirements template for inspected forces to comply with (Document)

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