Police custody in Islington - generally positive but more staff needed

Police custody in Islington was generally positive but staff shortages were affecting the care offered to detainees, said Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, HM Inspector of Constabulary, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection.

The inspection was part of a national programme of joint inspections of police custody. This was the second inspection of police custody in Islington the inspectorates have carried out. The first was at the beginning of the joint work programme, in 2008. The borough ran two custody suites, a primary suite at Islington police station and a smaller standby suite at Holloway police station which was used for specific operations, such as policing football matches. The focus of the inspection was on the primary suite.

Strategic oversight of the suites was provided centrally by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Criminal Justice Directorate within the Territorial Policing department, which seeks to ensure consistency in custody provision across London. The commander had good strategic oversight of custody, which was discussed at a range of meetings.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • a nurse was on site 24 hours a day, supported by a forensic medical examiner;
  • detainees were generally treated with respect, although their diverse needs were not always met;
  • a good mental health liaison and diversion scheme was operating; and
  • custody was not used as a place of safety under the Mental Health Act.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • the Islington suite was grubby with ingrained dirt in some places;
  • the layout made it difficult for custody staff to have overall control, which was compounded by the extremely poor quality of the CCTV monitors;
  • there were instances when staff were too busy to meet the needs of detainees; and
  • as elsewhere in the MPS, there was a lack of appropriate monitoring of the use of force.

Martin Lomas and Dru Sharpling said:

“This report provides a small number of recommendations to assist the force and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to improve provision further. We expect our findings to be considered in the wider context of priorities and resourcing, and for an action plan to be provided in due course.”

Notes to editors:

1. Read the report.
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. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales.
4. Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 enables a police officer to remove someone from a public place and take them to a place of safety – for example, a police station or health care setting. It also states clearly that the purpose of being taken to the place of safety is to enable the person to be examined by a doctor and interviewed by an approved social worker, and for the making of any necessary arrangements for treatment or care.
5. This joint inspection was carried out from 9-11 December 2013.
6. Please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Prisons press office on 020 3681 2775 or Phil Gillen (HMIC Press Office) on 020 3513 0600 if you would like more information.