Dyfed-Powys police had made “mixed progress” in its work to improve custody, with strengthened management and a strong culture of providing safe custody but some staffing problems, according to a report on a joint criminal justice inspection.
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Inspectors visited seven suites in the Welsh force area in November 2017, four years after the last inspection.
Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector Prisons, and HM Inspector of Constabulary, Dru Sharpling, said: “Overall we found that progress since then to improve custody services was mixed. Management of the service had been strengthened and the good interactions with detainees maintained. However, concerns remained about staffing, with continued reliance on frontline police officers to deliver custody services.”
The report noted: “There was a reliance on using frontline officers trained in custody to manage busy periods, with little monitoring of the frequency of this or assessment of whether custody services were delivered in the most effective and efficient way. Our observations and case audits indicated that staffing levels were not always adequate to meet demand or to ensure safe detention of all detainees. For example, checks on detainees did not always reflect the observation levels set, as detention escort officers were ‘too busy’.”
Inspectors found some other areas for concern:
- The force did not always comply with a number of significant areas of Code C of the PACE Codes of Practice for the detention, treatment and questioning of suspects. The report noted: “This was a serious concern that we expected the force to address immediately.”
- There was an over-reliance on removing detainees’ own clothing and replacing it with anti-rip clothing as a means of managing risk, rather than considering other options such as enhanced observation levels.
- Despite some good partnership arrangements with mental health services, waiting times for mental health assessments for individuals detained in custody were too long.
However, they also found several positive features:
- Officers had a good understanding of the vulnerability of detainees and this was embedded as a way of working.
- The force’s approach to children remained particularly strong, diverting them away from custody as much as possible and keeping any time they spent in custody to a minimum. The report noted: “There was a very strong focus on preventing children being criminalised and avoiding taking them into custody…It was evident that officers’ primary concern was to determine why a child had offended and identify safeguarding issues. Officers actively sought a range of alternatives such as voluntary interviews, community resolutions and other restorative justice options, and were well supported by youth offending teams to achieve these outcomes.
- Detainees were generally treated respectfully and received a good level of care while in custody.
Overall, Peter Clarke and Dru Sharpling, said:
“We found a strong culture across the force to support the safe delivery of custody. The force was clearly committed to improving and we are confident that it will use our findings and recommendations to help deliver improvements to custody services.”
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- 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.
- On 19 July 2017 HMIC took on responsibility for fire & rescue service inspections and was renamed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).
- 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.
- This joint custody suite inspection was carried out between 6-17 November 2017.
- 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.
- Inspectors visited custody suites in Aberystwyth, Ammanford, Brecon, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Llanelli and Newtown.
- Please contact John Steele (HMIP Press Office) on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 or Raymond Li (HMICFRS Press Office) on 020 3513 0634 if you would like more information.
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