City of London police custody - good care and inspectors confident it can improve further

Date of publication
26 March 2019
Inspection
Report type
Police cell inspections
Police forces
City of London

Inspectors found many positive features in the way the City of London police delivered its custody services, with “a strong culture of care” which addressed the needs of vulnerable detainees.

Though the suite at Bishopsgate in the City was old, lacked an exercise yard and did not meet the needs of those with disabilities, it was nevertheless clean and safe.

Inspectors noted that detainees “were treated with respect, empathy and consideration for their dignity and welfare while in custody.” Staff had received extensive training to help them to “understand and manage the wide range of individual and diverse needs of those coming into custody. There was good support for female detainees and those observing a faith.” Detainees generally had their cases dealt with promptly.

Frontline City of London officers were well-trained and focused on assessing vulnerability. This had resulted in vulnerable people and children being diverted away from custody, and a significant reduction in the number of people detained in custody under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.

Those children who did enter custody were well-treated. The force succeeded in getting relatives or other appropriate adults (AAs) promptly into the suite to support children.

However, the one cause for concern identified by inspectors related to some of the custody processes for children. Despite being able to get AAs quickly, children were sometimes processed (including having their fingerprints, photographs and DNA taken) without an AA being present as required.

The report noted: “This was seen as accepted practice by some staff. This did not meet the requirements of… the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) code D and needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency.” This failing was also identified in the case of some vulnerable adults. While there were “no undue delays” in getting AAs for children, the system for vulnerable adults did not work so well.

Among suggested areas for improvement, the force was recommended to ensure detainees had access to fresh air, and to work to strengthen the approach to risk management and to consistently meeting the requirements of PACE code C, covering the detention, treatment and questioning of suspects.

Overall, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Wendy Williams, HM Inspector of Constabulary, said:

“The force was open to both our external scrutiny, and that of the independent custody visitors scheme, providing confidence that it would take action to make the improvements needed.”

– Ends –

Notes to Editors:

  1. A copy of the full report, published on 26 March 2019, can be found here.
  2. HM Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promoting positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
  3. On 19 July 2017 HMIC took on responsibility for fire and rescue service inspections and was renamed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services.
  4. HMICFRS is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMICFRS inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies. HMICFRS will inspect all 45 fire and rescue services in England.
  5. This report is part of a programme of unannounced inspections of police custody carried out jointly by the two inspectorates and which form a key part of the joint work programme of the criminal justice inspectorates. These inspections also contribute to the United Kingdom’s response to its international obligation to ensure regular and independent inspection of all places of detention. The inspections look at strategy, treatment and conditions, individual rights and health care.
  6. This report describes the findings following an unannounced inspection between 5 and 15 November 2018 of the City of London Police Bishopsgate custody suite, which has 15 cells.
  7. Please contact John Steele (HMIP Press Office) on 020 3334 0357 or 07880 787452 or the HMICFRS Press Office on 020 3513 0634 if you would like more information.