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Room for improvement in custody

Room for improvement in custody

Published at 9:00pm 23rd March 2016. (Updated at 11:05am 24th March 2016)

Inspectors say police custody in North Yorkshire has improved, but it could be better.

An unannounced inspection of facilities in Harrogate, York, Northallerton and Scarborough looked at areas including treatment and conditions, individual rights and healthcare arrangements.

The report highlights "notable progress" in police working to reduce how often a cell is used as a place of safety for people held under the Mental Health Act, although the force needs to do more.

Martin Lomas, Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Dru Sharpling, from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), said: "North Yorkshire Police had demonstrated some significant improvements in some areas since the last inspection, but more was required.

"Useful strategic oversight and some good work with partners was leading to some positive outcomes.

"While the report is critical of police cells being used as a place of safety, there is recognition of the progress made to date.

"Our main concerns relate to the treatment of detainees, with the disproportionate use of anti-rip clothing, inadequate oversight of the use of force and some risk-averse practices.

"This report provides a number of recommendations to the force and the Police and Crime Commissioner. We expect our findings to be considered and an action plan to be provided in due course."

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Kennedy, of North Yorkshire Police, said they would consider the recommendations "very carefully".

He added: "Custody can be a challenging and unpredictable environment, and officers often have to deal with difficult situations and extreme behaviour. However, we are fully committed to making sure that we only detain people when we absolutely need to do so, that everyone we admit to custody is treated with courtesy and respect, and that the highest standards of safety are maintained.

"The HMIC report is very clear that detainee care in North Yorkshire Police’s custody suites is good overall, but in the 30 cases that HMIC examined last August, they found there were still some individual cases where we can do better, and we will learn from that.

"In particular, HMIC has recommended that we look at how we can better respond to the individual needs of some detainees, and how we improve record-keeping around situations where officers need to use force to deal with people in custody.

"We have already begun to make progress in these areas since the inspection was carried out last August. For example, we now have more trained custody sergeants available across the force, so we can deal with peaks in custody demand more effectively.

"We are using CCTV to verify that the proper checks are being carried out on detainees at the proper time, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that the dignity of detainees is maintained throughout their time in custody - including making sure that we have female officers available to deal with female detainees where that is necessary.

"The use of force is carefully reviewed by a special working group, so that we have oversight of what happens in custody and can put additional training in place if needed.

"It is encouraging that HMIC has recognised the progress we have made in a number of areas. For example, we are using voluntary attendance interviews instead of custody where that is more appropriate, we have skilled healthcare professionals in place in our main custody suites, and we have places of safety available for those who have mental health problems and need specialist care.

"Nevertheless, we will keep making improvements, including maximising the use of our most up-to-date custody suites wherever we can, so that detainees can be handled in the right way, in the right environment."

You can see the full inspection report here.